Is TV in a reboot renaissance? Or are we just out of ideas?

Several TV networks have announced reruns or spinoffs of 90s hits. What prompted the nostalgic move? 

Robert Harbison/The Christian Science Monitor/File
An acetate overlay on a background from the TV cartoon series 'Hey, Arnold', created in 1999. Nickelodeon has announced they will be bringing back some old shows soon.

The TV shows we grew up with will always have a place in our hearts. At least that’s what TV executives are banking on.

Nostalgia is the name of the game for several TV networks including Disney Channel, Fox, NBC, and most recently Nickelodeon, who have all announced they will be bringing back old favorites.

“We are looking at our library to bring back ideas, shows that were loved, in a fresh new way,” Russell Hicks, president of content and development at Nickelodeon, told Variety. Though he declined to name any titles, possibilities include 90’s cartoons “Rugrats,” and “Hey Arnold!”

Following the announcement, fans on social media and Reddit began eagerly posting their own suggestions for Nickelodeon reboots including “Rocko’s Modern Life” and “The Angry Beavers.” However, several commenters were wary of tarnishing the original shows' legacies. Many commented that they were excited at the prospect of old shows returning, but only if the show’s original actors and writers returned as well.

Nickelodeon is likely making the move based on success seen from other networks. Last year, Disney Channel began airing "Girl Meets World," the sequel to the ABC's TGIF classic "Boy Meets World." Over five million viewers tuned in to watch the premiere, making it the top series launch of 2014 among major youth demographics, reported TV Guide. The show has become a fan-favorite show on the network with a 7.2 out of 10 rating on IMDb, compared to  6 out of 10 ratings for Disney channel original shows “Jessie” and “Austin & Ally” that have been running since 2011.

Fox also revealed a six-episode "X-Files" revival series that will launch in January 2016 and NBC was considering "Coach", the ABC sitcom starring Craig T. Nelson, before deciding not to bring it back. A sequel series to the hit "Full House" may soon be appearing on Netflix as well, although Netflix has yet to confirm the pickup.

So why the move towards nostalgia?

“There’s so much product, it’s hard [for something new] to stand out,” Vulture suggests. “Somebody sees a new series now and it’s, ‘So what?’ There’s ten a day.” With limited advertising budgets and an unlimited amount of competition, TV producers hope shows that already have a solid fan base, like old 1990s cartoons, will be an easy way to generate revenue.

“You announce something like Full House or Coach, and boom – instant interest,” a Vulture TV vet says. “People are buffeted with so much content flying at them ... anything you can do to get them to say, ‘I’ll check that out’ – that’s huge these days.”

Though nostalgia is a consideration for a network to bring back an old show, it certainly isn’t the deciding factor. Reruns and spin-offs must have a reason for being reborn, and must be well written for the show to actually generate any real success.

Jason Bailey, writer for FlavorWire laments: “Pop culture is now just a BuzzFeed “Hey, remember the ‘90s?” listicle.” But perhaps this will be just enough to bring sorely wanted viewership back to TV networks. From there, it will be up to producers to ensure that the revivals live up to the originals, or better yet, surpass them.

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