Loyal fans spur comebacks of favorite TV shows

Shows like 'Full House,' 'The X-Files,' and 'Gilmore Girls' are all returning for new episodes long after they originally went off the air. What's behind these revivals?

Mitchell Haddad/The WB
Fan interest means a new 'Gilmore Girls' will air on Netflix.

New programs on broadcast TV and streaming services may be looking a little familiar. Over the past several months, pop culture has seen a boom of revived shows. Among others, Fox’s new episodes of the science fiction show “The X-Files” are a hit, while some are still to come, such as Netflix’s new take on the mother-daughter show “Gilmore Girls” and the sitcom “Fuller House.”

These aren’t remakes – most are sequels. “The X-Files,” for example, picks up with Mulder and Scully years later, as does “Fuller House” (which debuted on Netflix Feb. 26) with the original “Full House” family having matured into new roles and relationships.

What’s behind the revivals? 

Networks and streaming services operate in different ways sometimes, but they share a strategy: They want to “attract fans of existing content in order to make channels destinations,” says Aymar Jean Christian, an assistant communications professor at Northwestern University. 

We’ve seen this before. Even if a fictional universe hasn’t been on TV before, networks have chosen to adapt existing stories for television. Mr. Christian points to ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” both of which are based on popular comic books.

Christian says whether a show is a contender for a comeback depends on if “it’s had a big fan base or a passionate fan base.” Those behind the TV show no doubt hope that passionate fans will get on social media and spread the word about the program so it can gain new fans, says Christian.

Netflix gauged viewer interest by rereleasing “Gilmore Girls” on its service. The viewership most likely gave the streaming service the confidence to produce new episodes, although the airdate has not been mentioned.

This strategy works for movies, too. Audiences have proved they’ll show up for new stories with familiar characters. “Hollywood has always been a risk-averse industry,” Christian says.

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