Episode 256: A Millennial’s Theory to Why Networks are Rehashing Nostalgic Shows


To say I was bummed by some of the television shows that were cancelled recently would be an understatement. I’m glad that Brooklyn Nine-Nine was rescued by NBC, albeit giving it less episodes to flex its comedic muscles. But with all of those cancelled shows, that means there are going to be new shows replacing them. Let’s go see what they are! Hopefully, they’re going to be some good shows with fresh ideas. It looks like the CW has Roswell, New Mexico, about a teen girl who falls in love with an alien. They’re also producing a show called Charmed, which is going to be about three women who discover they have magical powers to fight evil.

Let’s see what else they’re bringing back… Hmm, Fox may have cancelled Lucifer but they managed to get a new sitcom called Last Man Standing, starring Tim Allen as a conservative father of a brood of daughters. CBS is getting Murphy Brown, which is a comedy about a hard-boiled newscaster. CBS is also getting a show called Magnum, PI, which is about a private investigator in Hawaii who lives in a mansion… why does that sound so familiar?

It’s like I’ve seen Magnum, PI before on Hits, that channel that shows retro television programs. Yes! That’s where I’ve seen this show before! In fact, I think I’ve seen older versions of Charmed, Last Man Standing and those other “new” shows I’ve mentioned before on late night cable! In fact, I’ve noticed a pattern of networks like CBS and Fox dipping into the reservoir of hit shows from the past and giving it a shiny new coat of paint.

Some people would point the finger at Roseanne, a show that was originally broadcast during the ’90s but got a new season just this year to rave reviews. These same people would say Roseanne spurned this current wave of retro shows has been trickling in for a while now. We have had other revived shows like Will and Grace, American Idol, Lost in Space, Dynasty, Hawaii Five-O and MacGyver that have popped up recently. Even cartoons are getting dug up from the grave with Hey Arnold! getting a one-off movie, Ducktales getting new episodes, Teen Titans getting a new look by being much more silly, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles getting yet another reboot and even Nickelodeon’s Rocko’s Modern Life transporting the characters into the modern world.

What gives with all of these old shows getting new leases on life? There’s the general idea that TV is now mirroring movies in that they’re just rehashing old properties and putting a modern spin on them, much like with films like Total Recall, Robocop, Death Wish and all of the live-action Disney films. While there may be some truth to this, I don’t think this is the whole reason. TV shows are very different from movies in the sense that television programs are going for the long game. Movies can immediately recoup their budget with one or two good weeks. TV shows work by giving us something to watch each and every week. They want to be picked up for a new season because that’s where they can go to syndication and whatnot.

I would be fine with them but when they come at the expense of current shows getting the boot, shows that a lot of my generation actually enjoy, I do take issue with that. However, I can’t really blame networks for cancelling shows like Lucifer because, well, it never really got huge ratings. Neither did Brooklyn Nine-Nine. But you know what did get good ratings? Roseanne. Charmed. Murphy Brown. Magnum freaking PI. In their heyday, these shows were huge crowd pleasers and networks like CW and CBS are going to try to recapture the magic. Why take the risk of making a new hit show when they can just reboot an old hit show instead? It worked before. Why not now?

But here’s the thing. I don’t think that’s the biggest reason why television networks are turning to classic TV and revamping them. And, like most old fogies, you can blame my generation, the millennials, and the younger generation, except this time, they may be right! This new trend of reviving old shows is actually do to the television viewing habits of younger people, or, in this case, their desire to watch network TV.

In the “olden times,” home entertainment revolved around TV. Everyone went home after work or school and plopped they butts on the couch to watch prime time shows. Then cable TV came along. Soon, there were a few people that figured out they can get away from the stifling censorship that is network TV by making more raunchy and “adult” shows for cable channels. We soon got shows like Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Dexter, The Walking Dead, Bojack Horseman and South Park, shows that couldn’t be shown on regular network TV because of all of the guidelines they had to follow.

Then came Internet. This is when things got really crazy! We soon got shows that really pushed the envelope further than the “sanitized” networks could even touch! We got House of Cards, Narcos, the first season of Homeland, The Americans, Strangers Things and much more. Not only did we get full-fledged television shows, the Internet gave us millennials and the rest of the world a godsend: YouTube.

With YouTube, you didn’t need a big budget to produce your own “television show.” All you needed was an idea, a camera and the gumption to make it and you’re good to go! And, in all honestly, this is how most millennials get their TV fix. Heck, we don’t even need cable TV anymore since we can get all of it over the Internet! My generation has slowly but surely cutting out network television programs from our entertainment diet and replacing them with bite-sized videos from YouTube. To a lot of the younger generation, “regular” television has just become stale when compared to the vast wilderness of creativity you can find on YouTube.

Yes, I’m actually saying there are less younger people watching network TV and I’m saying this from experience! I look at my daily routine and I maybe watch a few regular shows, such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Lucifer. But the rest of my day is usually filled up by downloading non-network shows like Game of Thrones or watching silly clips on YouTube. So, with millennials flocking away from the classic television show structure, what are the TV networks supposed to do? Well, they go after the generations that grew up watching their shows! And what better way to keep them from leaving is by tugging at their nostalgic heartstrings with “classic” shows like Charmed?

If networks are targeting at the fans who loved these retro shows, why are they giving some of them them modern tropes then? You can see this has worked for Roseanne and Will and Grace as the networks recreated the old sets and even recruited the old actors. But they can’t really do this for shows like Magnum PI and Charmed, which rely heavily on drama and action. Having aging actors jumping off cars and running from bullets would look silly.

There is another reason why networks do this, I think. Despite their reliance on using a well-known product from the past, they still want to attract the oh-so important 18-49 age demographic. You know, the millennials and my generation! Networks still have to retool these old shows to appeal to my generation, which is why everything seems so bombastic and action packed, a far departure from they style of yesteryear.

But they have to let us know it’s out there! I know my knowledge of nostalgic television shows may not be as good as most people as I have never heard of Murphy Brown and I wouldn’t have known about Magnum PI if it wasn’t being shown on that Hits retro channel but I’m betting these shows were big hits and they do have name recognition, even today. And releasing a show that just so happens to be something popular before will get people’s tongue wagging and talking about it. Sure, their reaction may be filled with hate, but at least it’s going to be in the public consciousness!

Surprisingly, I can’t really hate the networks for relying on nostalgia nowadays as it seems it’s what people want on television. I guess, when I’m older, someone will go and reboot Lucifer and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I can’t wait to get all mad when they do!

Why do you think we’re getting all of these reboots? Let me know in the comments section below!

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