Old shows coming back dominates TV — Will & Grace, Murphy Brown, Full House, The X-Files and more have saturated the airwaves with nostalgia. Here are some fun facts about this strange cultural fad.
First TV reboot
Reboots of old shows is nothing new. In fact, it goes back to when TV wasn’t that old of a medium. Arguably the first reboot — although they called them “revivals” back in the day — was Dragnet. Creator and star Jack Webb’s deadly serious L.A. based cop show was a radio show in 1949 before a hit TV adaptation lasted from 1951 to 1959. Webb brought it back in 1967, changing very little. He still played no-nonsense detective Joe Friday, only now the show was in color and his partner wasn’t Frank Smith (Ben Alexander), it was Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan).
First spinoff of a reboot
ABC’s 2018 Roseanne revival was phenomenally successful. The revival of the 1988-97 blue collar sitcom about the Conner family was the #3 show on all of TV, and easily earned a second season. That is it did until star and co-creator Roseanne Barr fired off some racially charged tweets, prompting ABC to cancel the whole thing. When the dust settled, they created a spinoff show called The Conners, about a blue collar family struggling to come to terms with the death of its matriarch (they’d killed off the Roseanne of Roseanne).
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Everything old is new again
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, there was a similar reboot craze. Beloved shows from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s which endured for years thanks to endless reruns, returned to TV, but with a “new” in their name to differentiate from the classic episodes. Among them: The New Leave it to Beaver, The New Mike Hammer, The New WKRP in Cincinnati, and New Monkees (which featured an all new made-for-TV rock band).
Everything old is old again
In 1988, the big three networks faced a dearth of material due to a writers strike. So ABC put a revival of the 1966-73 Mission: Impossible series into production. It got around the writer’s strike by simply remaking the old show’s existing scripts.
They’re not all hits
Viewers don’t want to revisit every show they’ve ever watched. Among the most quickly canceled shows over the past few years are reboots that lasted just a handful of episodes, including re-dos of Charlie’s Angels, Knight Rider, Ironside, and Melrose Place. Planned revivals of Coach and The Rockford Files never even made it to the air.