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The comeback kings: why re-boots are big business

The creative process of coming up with new formats is a lengthy and costly one, so it’s no surprise that there are many shows which have been relaunched a number of times, and other long-dormant formats which are brought back to screens after decades away. With so many hitting our screens of late, it seems like an opportune time to take a look at why so many of yesteryear’s hits are making a comeback.

June saw the relaunch of dating show Blind Date in the UK, a much-loved primetime centrepiece which has been off-air for 14 years. With acerbic comic Paul O’Grady as a new host and on a different channel, the show obviously hopes to set itself as a distinctive new show, albeit with nods to its previous success.

Entertainment revivals often work well when they take the character of their host into account, and the US is also no stranger to using well-known personalities to front a re-boot. Snoop Dogg will front The Joker’s Wild for TBS. The game show first aired during the 1970s and ‘80s, and the revived version will be set in a faux casino, with giant cards and dice. Personality is very much the name of the game in The Gong Show, a talent contest from the 70s which is making a comeback on ABC, for which comedian Mike Myers has created a new character in host Tommy Maitland.

Updating formats from 20-30 years ago in this way makes solid business sense, a combination of nostalgia and existing appetite helping to generate pre-release buzz in a saturated market. Looking for new avenues, broadcasters and their new competitors have also begun crafting adapted versions of previous successes which can sit on new platforms within the digital space.

This can be seen in the likes of CRIBS, MTV’s show which has found a new home on Snapchat as a bite-sized series, the recent news that Facebook has ordered its own version of 2016 reality competition Last State Standing, and Netflix giving Queer Eye For The Straight Guy a revamp for the digital age.

Two current examples from the kids space are 1980s animation Voltron, which was re-imagined as Voltron: Legendary Defender and launched June 2016 on Netflix, and Dennis and Gnasher: Unleashed, a CGI reboot of the Dennis the Menace franchise which premieres later in 2017 on CBBC (UK). These, and others like them, are tried-and-tested IPs which have proven their ability to resonate with kids – often already with an existing merchandise machine behind them – and can roll into action to engage a new generation of viewers afresh.

Nostalgia and existing appetite help to generate pre-release buzz

Drama and comedy are two areas where nostalgia plays a central part in the decision to revive a show, and there are a whole slew – particularly in the US – which have returned or are set to hit screens in the near future.  Shows including David Lynch’s seminal surreal murder mystery Twin Peaks and supernatural series The X-Files have made returns in recent months and years, with Star Trek: Discovery incoming, while sitcoms Roseanne and Will & Grace are also set to reappear onscreen in coming months.  

Whether the key driver behind a particular reboot is to target existing fans or a new audience, these shows demonstrate how existing franchises can be used to cultivate an audience for new programming; the quality of the show itself will determine whether it gets a new lease of life or fades back into obscurity.


Article by Danny Kershaw.

Danny Kershaw