The Popularity Of TV Reboots

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"Roseanne" cast
Laurie Metcalf, left, Roseanne Barr and John Goodman participate in the “Roseanne” panel during the Disney/ABC Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour on Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. Richard Shotwell/AP Photo

“Roseanne,” “Murphy Brown,” “Magnum P.I.” and “Cagney & Lacey” are just a few of the retro TV shows getting reboots this year. We discuss the popularity of classic television programs and welcome your feedback on which shows are hits and which ones are duds.

Featured in this Show

  • On-Demand Streaming Opens Door For More TV Reboots

    A whole flush of television shows from the 1970s, 80s and 90s have seen reboots in the last few years— from “The X-Files,” to “Full House,” “Twin Peaks” and “Will and Grace,” and soon, “Roseanne.”

    To Robert Thompson, professor of television and pop culture at Syracuse University, the reboots aren’t surprising. They’re no-brainers.

    “All of these shows are pre-sold. They’ve got a brand. People have heard of them,” he said. “Some of them, like ‘Full House’ and ‘Roseanne’ were enormous hits. And the idea of going back to that, well, a second time makes perfect sense. It worked really well one time, why not try it again?”

    Thompson said television reboots have been going on since the birth of the medium. He points to successes of original programming as proof that television producers aren’t simply running out of ideas.

    The only difference now? There are more places to put content.

    “It used to be you had three networks. They had 22 hours of primetime, a piece per week, and there just wasn’t that much room,” he said. “Now you’ve got, it’s not infinite space for more programming, but Netflix has made it look pretty close to that.”

    1. “One Day at a Time”

    The reboot of the 1975 sitcom “One Day at a Time” was one of several picked up by Netflix last year.

    The original show, which featured a divorced woman raising two teenage daughters, was groundbreaking at the time, Thompson said. The reboot changed most things, while keeping the core the same.

    “It’s got the same title, and it’s got the same theme song. But other than that this is way more than a reboot. It’s a new boot, it’s a whole new pair of boots,” Thompson said. “Set in a different city, Miami. It’s about a Cuban-American family. But it’s still got some of the spirit of that old show and it’s still a very old-school sitcom.”

    2. “Fuller House”

    Netflix also relaunched “Full House,” the 1987 sitcom, as “Fuller House” in 2016. But it took an entirely different route.

    The original series followed a widowed father as he raised his three daughters with the help of his brother-in-law and his best friend. “Fuller House” features most of the original set of actors from “Full House,” attempting to recreate the magic of the original series.

    “Everyone’s older, but they’ve got new little kids,” Thompson said. “The attitude is the same. The cheesiness of the jokes are the same. But that’s what people, I think, were looking for. If you’d have done ‘Full House’ and made it like ‘Curb your Enthusiasm,’ I don’t think anyone would’ve bought that.”

    3. “The X-Files”

    Not all reboots work as intended. “The X-Files,” an influential, hugely popular science fiction series from 1993, was rebooted in 2016 on Fox.

    “The X-Files” follows two FBI special agents as they investigated unsolved paranormal cases. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson signed on to reprise their roles of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, respectively, for the reboot.

    Thompson was excited for the new series, but found himself losing interest. That’s not because the 2016 season was necessarily worse than original seasons.

    “The first time around there was very little on TV like that,” Thompson said. “… When it came back, and it was still itself, it seemed like we’ve been there, we’ve done that.”

    Thompson said “The X-Files” inspired future science fiction television shows, like “Lost,” a giant of its own. But the time between the first “X-Files” and the second made it less interesting.

    4. “Roseanne”

    Like “The X-Files” and “Fuller House,” the planned 2018 ABC reboot of 1998 sitcom “Roseanne” also features much of the same cast. That was likely crucial for the series, Thompson said.

    The original show was a traditional sitcom, following the daily life of an Illinois working-class family. Roseanne Barr played the title character, a blue-collar woman who worked outside the home.

    “The title was ‘Roseanne,’ and that was not only her character, that was Roseanne Barr, who of course was a character in so many ways,” Thompson said.

    5. “Murphy Brown”

    Thompson said “Roseanne” and the upcoming “Murphy Brown” reboot are especially timely.

    “Murphy Brown,” which originally aired from 1988 to 1998, featured Candice Bergen as a television journalist working at a fictional CBS newsmagazine show similar to “60 Minutes.” Episodes were often inspired by current events and politics.

    Bergen, like Barr in “Roseanne,” will also be reprising her role in the CBS reboot.

    Thompson said he’s interested to see how “Murphy Brown” is different in the modern 24/7 news landscape.

    “I think the timing for a new ‘Murphy Brown’ is perfect,” he said. “Just as the timing for a new ‘Roseanne,’ about a working-class family, is perfect.”

Episode Credits

  • Dean Kallenbach Host
  • Bill Martens Producer
  • Robert Thompson Guest

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