Reboot Mania Makes Its Way to Reality TV

Some of them haven’t been gone long enough to be missed — but all of them are returning.

Reboot mania has spread to the unscripted series arena. Everything from A&E Network’s “Biography” to TLC’s “Trading Spaces” to Food Network’s “Iron Chef” to Discovery’s “Cash Cab” is being revived by hit-hungry networks.

“American Idol” signed off this time last year after a storied 14-year run on Fox. The confetti was barely swept up off the stage before FremantleMedia North America began shopping a revival to Fox’s rivals. NBC is known to be taking a hard look.

“America’s Next Top Model” sashayed off the CW in December 2015, and within six months had relocated to VH1. The show has been renewed for another season, this time with original host Tyra Banks coming back, to boot.

The reason for all the reality TV reruns is the same Marketing 101 factor that drives the endless parade of movie and scripted-TV remakes (not to mention the TV adaptations of movies and movie adaptations of TV series): In an environment with seemingly endless entertainment options, a well-known title stands taller in the crowd. Most prospective viewers already have an idea of what they’re getting, even if the format is inevitably remodeled in some way.

The flood of established unscripted titles also underscores how few new hits have emerged in the reality-competition space. Spike TV has bona fide bragging rights with “Lip Sync Battle,” but that’s about it.

ABC’s success in dusting off the game-show formats “Match Game” and “$100,000 Pyramid” encouraged Fox to recruit Andy Cohen to host a next-generation take on “Love Connection” this summer. “Fear Factor” and “Deal or No Deal” are among the older titles that are poised to be shopped anew.

In this climate, the toughest job in TV is launching a wholly new series format. CBS took a huge swing in January with “Hunted,” in which teams of contestants crisscrossed the U.S. in an effort to avoid a law enforcement-style manhunt. The show struggled to capture viewers and is not likely to be returning on CBS.

The Eye’s next big unscripted bet has a colorful built-in brand borrowed from a different kind of screen: “Candy Crush,” coming this summer.

As popular as they are, remakes and reboots can only go so far. Networks still have to field new players. CBS last week ordered a new series from the “Hunted” team: “Ambulance,” revolving around the life-and-death work of EMTs.

“Things are cyclical in this business,” said Rob Smith, exec VP and head of unscripted for Endemol Shine North America. “Today’s new idea could be tomorrow’s hit format.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • T.J. Dillashaw, right, kicks Cody Garbrandt

    Disney Plans UFC Broadcast for FX

    UFC matches will return to FX  – but not on a permanent basis. ESPN has been showing preliminary bouts to UFC pay-per-view events for the last while on ESPN and ESPN2, and then showing the main card on its ESPN+ subscription video service. In September, the early lineup will air on FX, which the UFC [...]

  • George RR Martin

    George R.R. Martin Says HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Ending Won't Influence Future Novels

    Geroge R.R. Martin is sticking to his original plan when it comes to the future of “Game of Thrones.” In an interview with The Observer, Martin claimed that HBO’s controversial ending for the series would have no affect on the endings of the last two novels. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything at all,” [...]

  • Listen: 'Pennyworth' Producer Talks Delving into

    Listen: 'Pennyworth' Executive Producer Talks Delving into Alfred's Backstory

    Bruno Heller may have served as an executive producer on the Batman-inspired series “Gotham” for the past five years, but it’s actually real-life people (not superheroes) that intrigue the producer the most. It’s for that exact reason that Heller’s newest series finds him exploring the origin stories of Batman’s butler Alfred in the Epix drama [...]

  • "Trust Issues" - Dylan and Lizzie

    'Instinct' Canceled After Two Seasons

    CBS has canceled “Instinct” after two seasons. Series creator Michael Rauch announced the cancellation Friday on Twitter, writing, “I’m very sad to relay the news that @instinctcbs won’t be renewed for a 3rd season. We will double up this Sunday and our season/series finale will be Aug 25.” Rauch also thanked series stars Alan Cumming [...]

  • Maisel Day

    My Mostly OK Maisel Day (Column)

    When Amazon announced its first-ever Maisel Day, I was intrigued. For one day, Aug. 15, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fans and Angelenos (fangelenos?) could hit up various restaurants, theaters and retailers throughout Los Angeles for special deals, all at 1959 prices. Among the gems: $2.50 makeovers, $0.99 pastrami sandwiches and $0.30 for a gallon of [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley' Final

    TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley's' Final Season Sets October Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO on Oct. 27 and Quibi greenlights a new cooking competition show “Dismantled.” DATES The fifth season of Netflix‘s “Peaky Blinders” will premiere on the streamer Oct. 4. The newest season will continue to follow one gangster family in the lawless streets of Birmingham, UK during the midst [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content