Full House

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APEX Insight: Classic TV shows get another run for their legacy in reboots.

What’s old is new again: Revivals of classic TV shows are all the rage. Netflix has been leading the revival charge in its goal to dominate smaller screens. Besides resurrecting the Tanners in Fuller House, the streaming service has brought back Gilmore Girls; Bill Nye, the Science Guy; and The Magic School Bus.

“Nostalgia. It’s a very powerful emotion. Older viewers love revisiting the shows and characters they engaged with when they were younger,” says Caroline Beaton, SVP International Programme Sales at Viacom International Media Networks, which is remaking Rocko’s Modern Life and Hey Arnold!, two classic Nickelodeon TV shows from the 1990s.

But nostalgia doesn’t guarantee success, says Andrew Guerdat, creator of the ‘90s sitcom Herman’s Head and writer for classic shows such as Boy Meets World and Head of the Class: A remake’s core story must be as strong now as it was then. “Years ago, I was asked to produce a Spanish-language revival of One Day at a Time for Telemundo, prior to the current Netflix revival,” he says. “The show was unsuccessful, I think, because the original had such a weak story engine (a divorced woman raises her two teen daughters) that it failed to speak to a new generation of women who had long since come to terms with whatever issues were relevant in the 1970s.”

“They’re a built-in brand for producers trying to cut through the clutter of the overcrowded TV landscape.” – Andrew Guerdat

While brand-new shows can take time to find their audiences even in the on-demand era, revivals have an audience ready and waiting. “My experience in talking to people in their twenties and thirties is that these ’90s shows are the ones Gen Xers grew up on and have fond memories of,” Guerdat says. “They’re a built-in brand for producers trying to cut through the clutter of the overcrowded TV landscape.” And Beaton adds that with millennials, who are now hitting their thirties and traveling more than ever, “The ease of selecting familiarity … is particularly relevant up in the air, where time is limited.”

Streaming services are also on the quest for familiarity as TV networks explore new ways to keep their audiences glued to the tube. In this case, bringing back a classic will at least get people talking around the watercooler again, even if the revival itself misses the mark. That relevance is a currency for any content distributor, be it a TV network, streaming service or in-flight entertainment provider. And passengers can be sure that airlines will bank on it.

“It can be difficult for new and unfamiliar ideas to cut through into the mainstream,” Beaton says, “which is why producers and broadcasters often fall back on reinventing ideas that they know have proved popular in the past.”

“Blast From the Past” was originally published in the 7.4 September/October issue of APEX Experience magazine.

Jordan juggles deadlines across various time zones as he writes about travel, culture, entertainment, and technology.