Image: Friends, NBC
The number of reboots returning to screens continues to increase as nostalgia pulls and audiences share their desire for familiar faces and content; Will and Grace, Charmed, and Dynasty are all getting second rounds in 2018.
While most reboots involve bringing back beloved TV series for a new generation of viewers, being strategic with intellectual property can also mean reuniting the older generation of viewers with the new, as proven by YouTube Premium’s global success with their Karate Kid continuation series Cobra Kai.
Throughout the 2017-2018 TV season in the United States, CBS led the way in the current wave of procedural reboots, while the network’s SVOD sibling CBS All Access has brought back Star Trek to help launch the service as an original programming player. The undeniable success of Star Trek: Discovery perhaps inspired the SVOD’s upcoming reboot of The Twilight Zone with Jordan Peele attached to the project.
Streaming services are keen not to miss out on the reboots trend: Netflix recently found success with a new version of Lost in Space, originally airing on TV in the US in the 1960s, and Queer Eye, an updated take on the fab five in Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, originally on Bravo. The streaming giant isn’t the only SVOD betting that reboots will bring subscribers to their service; just in the past few days Hulu announced they have commissioned a Veronica Mars revival series. MGM, in turn, has unleashed similar strategy earlier on in the year – rebooting its Stargate franchise to power up its own OTT service.
Clearly there is appetite to bring back fond memories. The time has therefore come for us to investigate this trend that is gaining momentum across the global TV industry. To gauge the public’s desire for previously-aired television series to be remade, we commissioned a survey asking 500 Americans the following simple question:
“What TV show should be brought back?”
Survey participants could list as many titles they wanted, and we then grouped the most desired TV series by subgenre and ranked the top ten titles that survey respondents listed.
The top 10 reboots Americans want most
The first thing we discovered is that Americans fondly remember a huge variety of television shows. These shows range from the 1950s (six respondents want the 1952 western Gunsmoke revived) all the way up to shows that have only just been cancelled (for example the 2018 Roseanne reboot). In all, from the 500 Americans surveyed we received no less than 222 unique titles!
However, some titles came up in the answers again and again. The following chart reveals the top 10 series that U.S. audiences would really love to see again.
With over 6% of the total vote, sitcom Friends is the No. 1 TV show that respondents want to bring back. Friends debuted on NBC in September 1994 with great success, consistently earning the highest ratings of any network program during its ten-year run. And this is also not the first time we have observed the enduring popularity of Friends, as detailed in this article.
Friends is joined in this list by other long-running and highly regarded U.S. sitcoms: Cheers, The Office and Seinfeld may all have been finished for years but still have the power to delight audiences today. Although existing episodes of these shows are a big draw for any platform, our survey shows that some Americans would like to see new versions of these shows on their screens.
M*A*S*H (5%) is in second place after Friends. As the U.S. show with the highest ever recorded ratings, this groundbreaking series mixed comedy with a serious streak, as well as serving as a running commentary about the then-contemporary Vietnam War. It is therefore no surprise a record-setting, critically acclaimed series like M*A*S*H is remembered so fondly today. A revival updated to be relevant to the modern day could pay off handsomely for a network, but there’s no room for error in the execution.
After M*A*S*H, Americans said they wanted Roseanne (4%) and Firefly (2.5%) brought back. Cult sci-fi series Firefly is a regular in surveys such as this as the show’s dedicated fanbase have been campaigning for a revival non-stop since the show’s cancellation by FOX in 2003.
The inclusion of Roseanne in the survey is intriguing as the show was successfully rebooted by ABC in the 2017-18 TV season, only to be re-cancelled after the sitcom’s star Roseanne Barr made tweets that ABC decided the network could not be associated with. Following this, a high-profile political row about the cancellation broke out in the US complete with tweets on the subject from President Trump. It certainly seems some Americans feel the show did not deserve to be ended; perhaps ABC’s upcoming Roseanne spinoff The Connors will provide them with the working-class comedy they want.
Meanwhile, the fans who answered “Last Man Standing” in this survey are likely to be pleasantly surprised soon: While the Tim Allen sitcom was cancelled by ABC in May 2017, FOX has since picked up the show and will air a seventh season starting late September. (Note: For a more in-depth look at titles that have recently been cancelled, we previously wrote about the popularity of cancelled TV shows from the 2017-2018 TV season).
Americans want sitcoms back most out of all subgenres
To discover further insights, we took all of the titles that included answers from two or more respondents and analyzed these by subgenre.
Consistent with the top individual shows Americans want brought back, by far the most popular subgenre for rebooted and revived shows was sitcoms: The clear majority of answers were for a show in the sitcom genre, 54.4% of answers were for shows in this category.
Sci-fi drama shows were the second-most common subgenre Americans wanted brought back, with 9.2% of respondents asking for revivals of sci-fi titles like Firefly, The X-Files and The Twilight Zone.
Finally, 8.4% of answers were for shows in the crime drama subgenre, while 4.6% were thriller titles. Western-themed series were the sixth-most popular subgenre with 3.8% of answers – Gunsmoke and Bonanza were the most common shows mentioned in this subgenre.
We have demonstrated that the U.S. public really wants Friends to be back on the airwaves, and with even Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox and Lisa Kudrow themselves hoping for a Friends reboot, all we need now is a platform and a little bit of funding, of course. Perhaps one of the streamers will pick it up… or could this title be the golden bullet for one of the traditional networks?
In closing, studios, networks, distributors and SVOD platforms can use our insights to dig a bit deeper into their library content to investigate which other shows might also offer “evergreen value”. And by relying on Parrot Analytics’ global TV expertise, content genome and global TV demand data, decision makers can better discover and understand the kind of factors that might make a discontinued show a success – allowing for smarter, more timely and more data-driven content decisions.