Quit Reviving 90’s TV Shows
In 2015 a televised Pandora’s Box was opened, mind you I was happy they opened it and it was opened by those with the best of intentions. This was when the revival of the 90’s cult classic Twin Peaks aired on Showtime. Twenty-Five years after Laura Palmer told Agent Cooper she would see him “in 25 years” audiences returned to the strange little Pacific Northwest town and the Black Lodge full of secrets. In a world of Firefly, Pushing Daisies, and Hannibal, this was the OG genre show prematurely cancelled leaving a cult audience with unanswered questions. The moral of this story for the industry should have been to revive more shows like this in order to provide closure to fans who were deprived of such. Instead, the lesson they took away from this is “let’s bring back as many 90’s shows as possible”. For the past few years, TV audiences have seen so many cheesy sitcoms of the era brought back in an attempt to earn the channel some nostalgia ratings and recapture some success from a bygone era. Now with the recent news that Frasier, a show I loathe (but that’s a whole ‘nother bag of oranges), will be getting revived on a new streaming service, I felt compelled to take a stand against this television trend.
In the case of Twin Peaks, it made perfect sense from both an artistic and narrative standpoint to bring it back to the airwaves. The acclaimed series ended with a dud rather than the planned bang leaving showrunners and fans deprived of the show’s full potential. But let us look at some of the other shows that have been revived in recent years: Roseanne, Will & Grace, Murphy Brown. These shows had runs of 10 seasons, 11 seasons, and 11 seasons respectively. Any stories they wanted to tell they had ample opportunity to do so. In the case of Roseanne at least, they kept things going far after they had completely exhausted their creativity. Look at Frasier for instance: Daphne and Niles married, Frasier left his radio job in Seattle, etc. every ongoing storyline they had was wrapped up over the course of the seemingly 743 years it was on the air. What more is left to do that they did not accomplish originally that demands a revival of the painfully unfunny show? A while back, the head of Fox admitted that they were mulling over bringing King of the Hill back to the airwaves. That is one of my all-time favorite TV shows but they had a great run of 13 seasons. During this time, it took a brilliantly dry-humored look at life in small town rural America, but small town rural America has evolved with the rest of the country and Arlen, Texas may not be as recognizable now. Add into this that since the end of King of the Hill we tragically lost both Brittany Murphy and Tom Petty two actors who were key to the cast. To their credit, the show’s creators Mike Judge and Greg Daniels say they do have ideas for what they could do with the show now. While they are proven geniuses and I don’t doubt them, they said it depended on if the network would allow them to age the characters up. But let us face it chances are that ain’t happening as Fox probably wants to hit audiences with that familiarity.
I am not going to pretend to be oblivious to the fact that these shows are resurrected with any artistic ideals in mind. They are brought back for the networks to make money. It is no secret that nostalgia sells, and it seems like nowadays every form of entertainment is a reboot, remake, or revival of something that came before it. In the case of the television industry there has never been more competition to put people’s eyeballs on your shows. Not only are there more channels than ever before, but there are also 679,496 streaming services as well. When you have that many odds against you, even the bigger networks begin sweating bullets. Investing money into something new, which could flop, is something nobody wants to do, but in the case of these old sitcoms, you have a proven ratings-getter that people are already familiar with. In the case of the Peacock and Paramount Plus, they are using revived versions of Saved by the Bell and Frasier as their “original” shows to draw the attention of potentially new subscribers. So long as you can convince key cast members to come back (which could probably be done by opening the checkbook), you are in for smooth sailing into money town. The problem is you can only resurrect so many shows before you run out, then what do you do? Re-resurect them? Continually cannibalize nostalgia rehashing the same properties over and over again?
All of these sitcoms of the 90’s have left their mark on television and they should be proud of what they accomplished. But not everything is meant to continue on past its Best By date. These TV shows were products of their time and I am reminded of that when they catch them in syndication. There is nothing wrong with that, but the times have changed and something new should have the spotlight. Every time a Frasier or a Roseanne or a Punky Brewster is brought back that leaves less space on the airwaves for new things to potentially have a shot.