Skip to comments.Can 80s TV hits succeed decades later?
Posted on 01/10/2008 10:46:44 AM PST by qam1
The days of neon leg warmers and hair scrunchies may be long gone, but the hit television shows from the 1980's may not be, as some of the top programs from the era continue to show up on this generation's plasma TVs. So far, NBC has been the only network to re-launch cult classics, first with "Bionic Woman" (the new version dropped the originals 'The' from the title) and then followed suit with "American Gladiators." The network is planning to air a new version of "Knight Rider" later this year, too.
With the writers strike still on and the networks having difficulty producing new -- and popular -- programming, TV insiders told ABCNEWS.com that re-inventing the cult classics, and appealing to viewers' sense of nostalgia, may be just what the industry needs.
"Broadcast network television is having the hardest time right now launching new TV," said Ben Grossman, the Los Angeles bureau chief for industry publication "Broadcasting & Cable." "It might be smart to launch something with a built-in audience." "If you can get people who know [the show] and remember it fondly and can get new people to watch, you've got a hit," added Grossman.
"Bionic Woman's" ratings weren't that impressive, and while "American Gladiators" were significantly better -- it was the highest-rated launch of any show this season so far -- it's still too early to predict its success, said Grossman.
No, it's not David Hasselhoff and the killer Trans-Am. Actor Justin Bruening and his customized Mustang update "Knight Rider" for its 2008 TV comeback.
"If you're re-making 'Bionic Woman' or 'American Gladiators' you know that at least a certain percentage of people are going to show up and watch out of curiosity and nostalgia," James Hibberd, a senior editor at "TVWeek," told ABCNEWS.com.
"This is why reality concepts from overseas are so popular, because you have at least some idea that they work," noted Hibberd. "If you're starting something from scratch you have to market the idea in a way that introduces the concept and so then you're rolling the dice because you have no template for success."
Several critics told ABCNEWS.com that NBC's decision to re-do the classics is at least partially due to the fact that Ben Silverman, co-chair of NBC Entertainment, is a Generation X-er himself, and may very well share in the nostalgia many have for the television programs they grew up watching.
But not everyone is convinced that shows that flourished more than two decades ago will continue to do so today, and some say that recycling the old content is ignoring the kind of creativity the industry desperately needs. "It's a lot easier to go with something that you know than to do something innovative," said Tom Lewis, the TV editor for the blog LAist.com. "There is a bit of a cop out [to re-doing old programs]."
Unlike the remakes of shows like Batman, Lewis told ABCNEWS.com that he thought the fault in the recent cult classic revival is that they are essentially the same shows transported into a later time period.
TV classics like "Bionic Woman" are being re-made in the hopes of attracting nostalgic fans and newcomers.
"Instead of embracing change and innovation the networks and their producers are holding onto drama [and] comedy show concepts and formats that made them big players 40 to 50 years ago," said Lewis.
Can the 'Oldies' Become the 'Goodies,' Again? Whether re-doing programming from previous decades will become a larger trend will depend largely on how successfully the first attempts are, according to TV insiders. If shows such as "American Gladiators" continue to pull in good ratings, other networks will be eager to jump on the bandwagon of a new business strategy -- much like what happened during the reality TV craze. "If somebody does find a little bit of success then everyone in television will run to copy what works. Look at "American Idol" and its rip offs," said "Broadcasting & Cable's" Grossman.
But nostalgia may not be enough to keep these shows afloat for more than a few weeks, according to Ray Richmond, TV critic and entertainment columnist for "The Hollywood Reporter."
"Nostalgia is a very powerful thing," said Richmond. "Everyone things everything was cooler 'way back when.'"
"And sometimes [shows or films] will come back and they'll be great, but often times they're paled imitations and it's better to leave the past," Richmond added. "You can't always duplicate success."
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social (and sometimes nostalgic) aspects that directly effects Generation Reagan / Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
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“Moonlight” on CBS sure looks an awful lot like the old “Forever Knight” from the 80s (about a vampire cop in Canada)
I see Rambo is coming out in theaters. Has Stallone been digitally remastered?
The 80s ruled in every way.
Compare Motley Crue to any of that modern “metal.” Compare Tone Loc to modern Hip Hop.
“Real Genius” vs. “American Pie.” Pulleeze. “Superman IV” vs. “The Fantastic Four.”
“Who’s the Boss” compared to “Insert Generic Reality Show Here.”
Better TV Babes: Alyssa Milano vs. Debra Messing...
Better supermodels. Christie Brinkley compared to...no one. She compares to no one!
And lest we forget: Better politicians.
Ronald Reagan vs...Bush. Love ya W, but you’re NO Reagan. In no way, shape or form.
More evidence that they are just totally out of ideas. How long before the Bionic Woman takes on a corporation that’s destroying the environment?
Debra Messing isnt the typical hollywood beauty, but she has great hair, and isnt too shabby....i could see me with her....sans the restraining order...
Oh, I’d hit it, don’t get me wrong.
*sheepishly looks around for wife*
You obviously meant to write "Superman II," because that was the only good Superman movie made in that decade.
They are making an A-Team movie where they are vets of the Gulf War.
One of our local stations just started showing “Happy Days,” “Laverne and Shirley,” and “Mork & Mindy” re-runs. I was 3 when HD started, but each episode of each show we’ve seen is funnier than any sitcoms we’ve seen lately.
We tried “Til Death”, and “Back to You,” but they got old fast. I just hope “Life” survives the strike. I love that show.
I’ll stick with reruns of original Bonanza.
Amen! Compare Miami Vice, Magnum PI, Simon & Simon with anything on today. Compare Van Halen/Van Hagar with any music out now.
If Stephen Cannell is involved, then I’ll consider watching it.
I was a metal fan in the 80’s, but now I am listening to Sirius radio’s “First Wave” station. All the original alternative bands— Smiths, Talking Heads, The Cult, The Cure. I think popular music peaked in the 80’s and has been on a rapid decline since.
Now, popular music seems to be either hip-hop or retread style or retread songs from the 80’s.
You made me get weepy, dammit! You mentioned Reagan and I started getting misty and feeling fuzzy inside.
I listen to First Wave, Hair Nation, the Big 80s, Classic Vinyl, Classic Rewind, Buzzsaw, Sirius Patriot of course, and even Symphony Hall and Prime Country (80s country) once in a while.
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