*Photo Credit: © 2016 Netflix
“In west Philadelphia born and raised…”
I’m sure most — if not all — of you just finished this lyric from the theme song of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in your heads. Today, in the age of individuality and choice, the same togetherness that was once felt when everyone watched the same show, or shows, every week is practically dead due to the overwhelming amount of programs available. Today’s fast-paced world full of constant media stimulation is fostering a nostalgic craving for simpler times throughout society, which is being fed by Hollywood with revivals, reboots, and remakes to fan-favorite shows like Gilmore Girls and Will & Grace.
With social media, YouTube, and streaming services like Netflix, people are able to watch whatever they want, whenever they want. The recommended shows are tailored to users’ interests, and with hundreds of choices on both streaming services and television, having a sizable chunk of the population settle on one specific program is increasingly rare, though not impossible.
The change in television-watching is made obvious when a comparison is made between the ratings of shows that were originally produced during the traditional-viewing age to those of today’s multi-media era. In the 1990’s, popular sitcoms like Full House and Roseanne were considered to have low viewership if they brought in 10 million viewers, and at the height of their popularity in the mid-90s, they were attracting close to 20 million viewers each week. In contrast, 10 million viewers for a sitcom or scripted show today is considered successful.
Furthermore, all of television programming has seen a change in viewership over the last 10 years or so due to the instantaneity and individualization of media. For example, ER (1994-2009), the forerunner to Grey’s Anatomy (2005-), topped viewership in their 3rd season (1996-1997) with 30.79 million, while its modern equivalent has yet to surpass the 19.44 million viewers that its 2nd season attracted in 2005-2006.
This change in viewership is directly correlated with the increase in programs to watch and the new platforms on which to watch them, such as Netflix, Hulu, and even YouTube. With hundreds of shows to watch, not only on television, but on these new competing platforms, the number of viewers per show had to diminish. This individualized and overly saturated market in programming may be convenient and attractive to some, but may also be overwhelming to others, which could explain the resurgence of television programs and movies from a simpler time in viewing history.
Television shows that have been off the air for years, like Full House (1987-1995), Gilmore Girls (2000-2007, 2016), and Will & Grace (1998-2006, 2017-), are being rebooted, revived, and remade due to nostalgia for the “good ol’ days.” In this time of entertainment and media saturation, people are craving a simpler time, and beloved television programs are the perfect way to get it. Although there are hundreds of shows and programs to choose from, people continue to watch shows that are no longer in production like Friends (1994-2004) and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996), and consistently connect with each other due to a common knowledge and love for these classic programs.
Bringing back these shows that people still have a deep nostalgic connection with allows them to forget about the tougher times of today and reminisce about the joy that the show brought them years ago. As Paul Dergarbedian, senior media analyst for Comscore, told Huffington Post, “When these reboots or remakes are done in the right way, it’s like a time machine.”
Interestingly, the growing nostalgic demand in the media is mainly being generated by this younger audience with the use of social media. By being able to connect directly with both stars and those in charge of production, fans are able to express their love of programs and their desire to bring them back, which creates an incentive for those in charge to revive an already established and appreciated show. Additionally, Dergarbedian notes that jumping back into a program that has “built-in familiarity with the source material [theoretically] gives you a leg up.”
21 years after the series’ finale, Fuller House (2016-), the reboot of Full House, premiered on Netflix, and is one of the streaming service’s most popular programs, as the show just recently released its 3rd season. Netflix also produced Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (2016), a revival of the hit series Gilmore Girls, nearly a decade after the show’s wrap. If there still was any doubt that nostalgia is selling, Netflix released their ‘Top 20 Most Binge-Raced Shows’ from 2013 to date with Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life and Fuller House holding the top two spots, proving the millennial force behind this nostalgia trend.
Fuller House and Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life were the catalysts of the reboot/revival wave that has engulfed television. Their successes have allowed for shows like Will & Grace to not just come back to prime-time television, an already unprecedented occurrence, but to also return to similar sensation and prosperity. On September 29th, 11 years after the original series’ finale, the Will & Grace revival premiered to 10.2 million viewers, 14.8 million after on-demand views for the following three days were factored in, which is the largest overall audience that NBC has seen in 12 years. This record-breaking return would not have been possible had the cast and crew not gotten together last year to film a YouTube video for the 2016 presidential election, which is yet another way that millennials on social media are responsible for igniting the raging nostalgic fire in Hollywood.
This nostalgic trend is being led by younger people like me because we crave a first-hand experience with these beloved shows that we grew up on. Most of our generation experienced these shows that are being rebooted through reruns or Netflix binges, and there is a kind of disappointment in knowing that a show has an ending before you have even watched the beginning. Although the older generations are also participating in this nostalgic craving, the resurrection of these shows is undoubtedly due to the social media power of millennials. After all, it was the modern forms of television-watching, specifically Netflix, that first answered the nostalgic call of viewers, proving that our younger generation is leading this movement.
Although some have criticised Hollywood as being out of original ideas and have compared this revival of past productions to beating a dead horse, the entertainment industry is simply supplying the audience’s demand. Just as concert tickets are sold with the assurance that fans will hear the hits, programming executives are keeping up with the intense competition by attracting viewers with modern takes on time-honored classics. If remaking Full House brings any amount of joy to millions of people, then far be it from anyone to criticize Netflix for doing so. If fashion trends like high-waisted jeans and crop tops can come back into style, then beloved shows certainly can too.