Why Do TV Networks Keep Rebooting Old Shows?

Anyone who has watched television or even a streaming service in the past two years has noticed a sharp uptick in the number of reboots. These older shows are brought back from the dead, sometimes as a continuation as their old plot, and other times as a reimagining fit for the modern generation.

It’s the latest trend, and to say that television producers have gone all in is an understatement. Just a scant few of the reboots we’ve seen (or had announced) recently include Rosanne, Will and Grace, Charmed, Murphy Brown, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy

While rebooting old television shows that originally did well isn’t a new idea, the sheer number of reboots seen recently must surely break some kind of record. But why do TV networks keep rebooting old shows? Here’s what we know.

The Conners
ABC’s “The Conners” | Robert Trachtenberg/ABC via Getty Images

Reboots play on our nostalgia

Children who grew up in the 1990’s are the adult generation now, ranging between their mid-twenties and mid-thirties. The shows being rebooted are mostly geared at this specific generation (dubbed “millennials”), whether obvious or not.

Even the shows that weren’t meant for them then are shows which were watched when they stayed home sick from school or visited their grandparents house. It helps that “90’s kids” are known for being one of the most nostalgic generations

Why the nostalgic aspect is so important

Nostalgia can be a beautiful thing. When living in uncertain times, as we are today, revisiting old television shows can help bring back those warm, fuzzy feelings people had while sprawled on their stomachs watching television in their childhood.

Preston Beckman, who worked as a network scheduler for both NBC and Fox, agrees with this statement. “Historically, when we’re living in difficult times, it’s always comforting to go back to programs that made us feel happy, felt comfortable, made us feel secure. Many of the shows that are being rebooted are, for many people… these are shows that take them back to better times.”

Reboot versus revival

It should also be noted that there is a difference between a reboot and a revival, and we’ve been seeing a combination of the two. A reboot is when an old show is given a brand new cast and (usually) changed a little to best fit with what the current generation will relate to. It’s the same story, but a different time, so to speak.

A revival, on the other hand, is when an old cast (or at least most of them) are brought back to carry on the story that was left off with whenever the show ended. 

Some are thrilled

Some people are thrilled that all of their old favorites are being born anew. Again, it’s a play on the nostalgia that many of us both want and need in difficult times. Unfortunately, not everyone has nice things to say about all of these television reboots. 

Many think it’s being overdone

The general consensus of critics is that when networks begin leaning too heavily on reboots, revivals, spin-offs, and sequels, that there is a desperate need for new ideas in Hollywood – a lack of creativity, so to speak. These same critics have gone on social media and spoken out in interviews about exactly what they think of all these reboots… and they weren’t exactly nice about it.

The executive editor of IndieWire, Michael Schneider, tweeted: “Anyone else getting the sense that broadcast TV is embarking on its Farewell Tour by playing all the hits one last time?”

Many fans took to Twitter to voice their outrage, also. One woman commented “Stop the insanity!!! Just say ‘no’ to reboots!!” Others tweeted “Doesn’t anyone have any new ideas?” and “Come on, enough is enough. Let the dead be dead.”