Des­per­ately seek­ing hits

All is not well in­side the weird busi­ness of crank­ing out re­boots of hit 80s and 90s shows

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODTELLY - DREW HAR­WELL

GIL­MORE GIRLS, the dram­edy fol­low­ing a witty mom-daugh­ter duo in small­town Con­necti­cut, was never close to a TV smash. At its peak, in 2002, the seven- sea­son se­ries ranked 121st in US view­er­ship, be­hind Fox’s Temp­ta­tion Is­land.

But in the eight years since its can­cel­la­tion, the show has traced a sur­pris­ing as­cent to cult star­dom, in­spir­ing viewer binges, a newly ra­bid fan base and key in­ter­est from stream­ing gi­ant Net­flix, which is re­port­edly pur­su­ing an orig­i­nal re­boot.

Gil­more will be­come only the lat­est in a se­ries of re­vivals of turn-ofthe-mil­len­nium niche TV shows like Full House, Twin Peaks and The X-Files, which net­works hope will help them stand out among the vast glut of things to watch on air and on the Web.

None of the early ex­per­i­ments in re­heated TV has be­come a break­out hit. But in TV, where ev­ery mea­gre suc­cess is bro­ken down into a for­mula, the re­boots are seen as cheap bets, with of­ten low- risk premises, washed- up stars and built-in cores of su­per­fans.

For net­works, the 1990s re­boots of­fer an­other prize: The view­ers who grew up on th­ese shows are now making the de­ci­sions on ca­ble bud­gets of their own.

“Nostal­gia is bank­able now,” said Demi Ade­juyigbe, whose episode- discussing pod­cast, Gil­more Guys, counts more than half a mil­lion lis­ten­ers and re­leased an “emer­gency pod­cast” to dis­cuss the re­boot news.

“The fans are be­ing louder, and way more ac­ces­si­ble, in terms of what they want,” Ade­juyigbe said. “Ev­ery­one’s go­ing for the great Amer­i­can TV show,” he said, but it’s not enough for a show to be good: “It has to be an event. It has to do some­thing to get peo­ple talk­ing.”

TV re­vivals have fo­cused mostly on recog­nis­able names un­veiled dur­ing a sim­pler time, be­fore binge­watches and spoiler alerts.

Net­flix, which pre­vi­ously re­vived the noughties com­edy se­ries Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment, will next year launch a 13-episode re­boot of 1990s fam­ily sit­com Full House. Fox is res­ur­rect­ing 24, Prison Break and The X-Files; CBS is bring­ing back Star Trek; and Show­time has vowed to re­turn to the sur­real 1990s cult ob­ses­sion, Twin Peaks.

The net­works have also mined for gold among yes­ter­year’s cult cin­ema. Net­flix un­veiled a pre­quel se­ries of the 2001 satire Wet Hot Amer­i­can Sum­mer, Starz rolled out the camp zom­bie se­rial Ash vs Evil Dead on Hal­loween, and ABC and NBC have com­mit­ted to pi­lots based on late-1990s cul­tural phe­nom­ena like My Best Friend’s Wed­ding and Cruel In­ten­tions.

An­a­lysts say TV’s ti­tans have swiped Hol­ly­wood’s se­quel-cen­tric play­book largely out of des­pera- tion: With about 400 orig­i­nal scripted se­ries set to air this year – up from 213 in 2010 – net­works to­day see a name-brand re­boot as one of the most direct ways to draw in fans.

“With so many new se­ries be­ing pre­miered ev­ery year, good ideas are at a pre­mium,” said Tim West­cott, a TV pro­gram­ming an­a­lyst with in­dus­try re­searcher IHS. “The fact is a lot of dra­mas are be­ing made now that would never have seen the light of day be­fore things got so com­pet­i­tive.”

That th­ese cult clas­sics stem al­most en­tirely from the 1990s and the noughties is no co­in­ci­dence, but a way of nab­bing a slip­pery au­di­ence of young view­ers who are nev­er­the­less ea­ger for some­thing to watch. Four out of 10 US homes now sub­scribe to Net­flix or an­other stream­ing ser­vice, and the old­est per­son in half of those house­holds is 45 or younger.

It’s “a com­ing of age of those who were heavy TV view­ers” be­fore mo­bile and in­ter­net view­ing took hold, said Kaan Yigit, pres­i­dent of SRG, a me­dia re­search group. “Th­ese shows are a kind of pu­berty con­nec­tion… (to) mil­len­ni­als who are sexy to mar­keters but harder to catch via TV.”

When Net­flix chief ex­ec­u­tive Reed Hast­ings was asked of the com­pany’s big­gest chal­lenge, he said it was “be­ing the ser­vice that peo­ple want,” adding, “if we could have 10 more ( Or­ange is the New Blacks) and five more Nar­cos –I know I’m putting a lot of pres­sure there – that would be really trans­for­ma­tive.”

But the cost of find­ing, film­ing and mar­ket­ing that many orig­i­nals has added pres­sure to net­works’ bud­gets, and cre­ated a prob­lem that re­heat­ing TV’s left­overs can help solve. Re­boot­ing an older ven­ture – es­pe­cially with cheaper ac­tors, out of the spot­light – can be fi­nan­cially less risky than, say, craft­ing a gritty, award-win­ning crime drama from scratch.

The TV re­hash “is like a se­quel. You don’t have to mar­ket it, it sells it­self ”. said Brad Adgate, me­dia re­searcher with Hori­zon Me­dia. “But you also open your­self up to crit­i­cism: The sto­ry­line wasn’t as good, the act­ing wasn’t as good.”

Nostal­gia, as Mad Men’s Don Draper would say, is “del­i­cate but po­tent”, but get­ting it right is no sim­ple task. CW Net­work re­boots of 1990s soaps like 90210 and Mel­rose Place were de­rided, and Net­flix’s Ar­rested De­vel­op­ment’s re­vival po­larised view­ers.

“The ti­tle may help get peo­ple in the door, but I don’t think nostal­gia is enough for any show to be suc­cess­ful. It still has to earn its au­di­ence,” said David Mad­den, pres­i­dent of Fox En­ter­tain­ment.

Time also waits for no re­boot. Alexis Bledel, who at 20 first played brainy high-schooler Rory Gil­more, is now 34, while the ac­tor who played her grand­fa­ther, Ed­ward Her­rmann, died last year. The show’s charm, fans worry, may have also arisen from a time that may not track as well into the mod­ern day. As Gil­more Guys co-host Ade­juyigbe said, “Why raise the dead and risk birthing a Franken­stein?” – Wash­ing­ton Post

The Gil­more Girls.

FAC­ING CHANGES: Lau­ren Gra­ham as Lore­lai and Alexis Bledel as Rory in

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