Sunday, September 24, 2023

Reboots Won’t Reboot Ratings But They’re Nothing New

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Twenty percent of this season’s 100 broadcast shows are reboots, revivals, or spin-offs. Three reboots, two revivals, and three spin-offs are new this fall alongside 12 more returning. That percentage is only going to get higher in the next few years. Their additions won’t reboot linear ratings for broadcast. Nor is this reboot resurgence a new thing.

Linear ratings in the 18-45 demo (the set that advertisers care about) have declined every year in the past decade in the 10-15% range. And even in an Olympic year, ratings for the big 4 dropped twelve percent! Still, Roseanne‘s success led to networks ordering more than half of their reboot pilots to series. Roseanne’s firing over the summer indicates that The Connors will have to do hard work to keep Tuesday night afloat for ABC. Plus their faith that ABC still has in the show’s ability to provide high(ish) ratings.

Below is a table of the new and returning reboots, revivals, and spin-offs. Clearly TV depends on old or existing IP a lot.  Especially in the world of procedurals, the bread and butter of broadcast. Here, reboots have new casts or settings than the original. Revivals include the old cast. Spin-offs are shows that may or may not include members of the old cast but live in the same universe.

 Reboots, Revivals, and Spin-offs

Reboots Table

Clearly reboots and revivals have become the newer norm in the last few years. This is after many, many spin-offs going back a decade or more. This graph only included shows still airing. So imagine the handful of one season reboots (Charlie’s AngelsKnight Rider, Melrose Place) or franchises which finally ended like CSI everywhere.  The four reboots announced so far are unsurprising. Designing WomenBewitchedBuffyThe Facts of Life were all announced recently with more to come.

In fact, a few hours after this was originally published, news broke of another Law and Order spin-off! This time a thirteen episode order on a series about hate crimes.

Of course, like this year’s batch, not all will make it to series. Especially if the Nielsen audience doesn’t take to this year’s crop which make up 25% of the new shows. And while spin-offs have been part and parcel of broadcast in the last few years…clearly reboots are the go to for networks trying to break through to the remaining Nielsen viewers. After-all even with all the other ways of making profit, advertising money is the biggest priority for the networks.

So the real question isn’t when will reboots stop in Peak TV? When will creators go beyond rebooting the shows with inclusive casts (mostly the case this year) into creating shows where leads are given their own mythologies and universes? Sure a new Buffy with a Black slayer would be awesome, but I don’t want it if whatshisface is still involved, and I’d rather watch a Black woman in a whole new world. Excuse my Aladdin reference.

And knowing reboot frenzy won’t end anytime soon unless literally all of them fail this year, can we at least make sure the writers’ rooms are also reflective of the new and inclusiveTM characters? Shows are better when rooms are inclusive too because the stories are truly authentic. Look at how people have reacted to ODAAT! 

For every reboot, networks should support another original story with leads who represent a variety of experiences. And no, they can’t be a medical, cop, or legal drama!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to try both Charmed and Magnum PI out but maybe, just maybe, the networks would have better luck with keeping Nielsen viewers around with truly imaginative stuff that they’ll actually want to watch.


  • Seher

    Seher is the Associate Editor-in-Chief at The Fandomentals focusing on the ins and outs of TV, media representation, games, and other topics as they pique her interest. Otherwise, she's reading away for graduate school. pc: @poika_

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