Looking ahead to the new season, TV is looking way back.
“These revivals came to us in the form of original creators having a burning passion to revisit their shows,” NBC entertainment president Jennifer Salke tells Variety. “In the case of both ‘Coach’ and ‘Heroes,’ both creators came in to talk about why they think these shows needed to come back to network television. They had relevant stories to tell.”
Though these new shows have familiar titles, don’t expect the TV revival trend to look like repeats. “We couldn’t argue with the fact the new creative directions were really compelling,” Salke says. “We would have leaned into these projects even if there hadn’t been an original series.”
With its original Emmy-winning star, Craig T. Nelson, in place as the lead and an executive producer, the revived “Coach” will pick up 20 years later. The laffer boasts a built-in fanbase, familiar storylines and a network-favorite star, positioning the show for a high level of awareness, though Salke admits, “there are certainly no guarantees of success.”
One key to TV’s new wave of revivals seems to be attaching original talent — or at least bringing back as many as possible.
“Heroes Reborn” is bringing back cast members Jack Coleman, Masi Oka, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Greg Grunberg and Cristine Rose while introducing a new crop of heroes, including Zachary Levi (“Chuck”).
“We think it’s important to give the original fans of the show something to chew on in the form of seeing their beloved cast members again and getting the payoff of seeing what the characters have been doing,” Salke explains of bringing back alums. “At the same time, these shows need to stand on their own two feet and be able to bring in new viewers who might not be familiar with the original. It’s a balancing act.”
The approach of combining old favorites with newcomers has worked for Disney Channel’s “Girl Meets World.” The comedy hit paired newcomers including Rowan Blanchard (who wasn’t even born when “Boy Meets World” ended), with original series veterans Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel to appeal to both a younger aud and an older generation looking for a dose of nostalgia. (Disney will add to its TV revamp slate with a new “DuckTales” series, set to bow in 2017 on Disney XD.)
Another TGIF hit coming back with familiar faces, plus fresh-faced newbies? “Full House.”
The news of Netflix’s “Fuller House” nearly broke the Internet with Candace Cameron Bure — as DJ Tanner-Fuller, now a mother — Bob Saget, John Stamos and Dave Coulier all confirmed to appear in the streaming revamp of the beloved sitcom. (In a different form of nostalgia, Lifetime is filming a telepic set behind the scenes of the original series.)
Netflix has already revived Fox’s “Arrested Development” and scored three Emmy noms for the effort. According to producer Brian Grazer, the critically acclaimed comedy isn’t done just yet and will be back for a fifth season of 17 new episodes. Though Netflix declined to comment on that news, “Arrested” creator Mitch Hurwitz has an overall deal with the company.
A different Fox classic will return to its original network in early 2016 when David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reprise their iconic “X-Files” roles as Fox Mulder and Dana Scully for a new six-episode event series from creator Chris Carter.
“We always wanted to keep it going,” Duchovny says about returning to the Emmy-winning sci-fi favorite. He says the shorter order is appealing to actors, and could become a pattern for future revivals hoping to lure busy thesps back to roles from earlier in their careers.
It worked for Fox’s “24: Live Another Day,” which brought back Kiefer Sutherland as tortured torturer Jack Bauer and now contends for Emmy noms in this year’s limited series race. And the network is exploring the possibility of reviving another thriller from the past, “Prison Break.”
“Television started to change in that now there are limited runs,” says Duchovny, who is also starring on NBC’s summer event series “Aquarius.” “I think it’s the way the networks have to survive in the future. You can attract the talent you want by having a shorter season and you can tell more interesting stories.”
“I would never have gone and done another 22 episodes of ‘X-Files.’ (Six episodes) is continuing the show in a way that we all can do at this point in our lives.”
Though short order revivals can be appealing to talent and creatives, not all of Hollywood is in favor of making new with the old.
“‘Roots’ is a classic, and it should remain a classic,” Cicely Tyson recently told Variety of History’s planned remake of the 1977 landmark, which broke ratings records at the time and earned nine Emmys. Tyson earned one of the mini’s 28 additional noms for her role as Binta.
Showtime’s “Twin Peaks” comeback has had its fair share of back-and-forth with David Lynch abruptly quitting over budget concerns, after the nine-episode series was already greenlit. As of now, the Showtime project is back on with co-creators Lynch and Mark Frost attached, plus star Kyle MacLachlan.
One reboot that no one seems to have any qualms with? “The Muppets” from “The Big Bang Theory” creator Bill Prady, which will reunite everyone’s favorite furry friends this fall on ABC with a modern-day twist. The documentary-style series explores the puppet’s personal lives and relationships.
From puppets to heroes, TV revivals share a common thread: a built-in audience excited to tune in. The challenge for their creators, then, is to deliver shows that live up to audience expectations.
“It seems like these are good bets to take,” Salke says of NBC’s revivals. “If they fire on all cylinders, we may draw a loyal fan base, a new audience and create some buzz.”