Already this fall, four remakes or reboots of previously existing films or TV shows have debuted on the broadcast networks, to varying degrees of success. Three more are on the way this season, and at least eight others are in the development stage for future seasons.
The thinking at broadcast networks goes that familiar titles like “Lethal Weapon” or “Hawaii Five-0” come pre-sold to audiences, and therefore offer a chance for those shows to stand out in the 400-show Peak TV universe we live in now. The 2016-17 will have the biggest pool of reboots on the broadcast networks this century, with seven — plus a continuation of FOX’s mid-aughts series “Prison Break.”
It’s a trend that’s growing rather than declining: From the 2000-01 season through 2015-16, 35 remakes or reboots of older shows or movies premiered on the broadcast networks. Sixteen of those — almost half — came in the last five seasons.
Whether the growing tide of such shows is good creatively isn’t the concern here. Do reboots work? Does their familiarity translate into enough ratings to warrant multiple seasons?
Not really, no — at least not more than network scripted shows as a whole.
|Type||Number of shows||Renewed||Canceled||Failure rate|
|Remakes/reboots, 2000-01 to 2015-16||35||13||22||62.9%|
|Remakes/reboots, 2009-10 to 2015-16||22||8||14||63.6%|
|All scripted shows, 2009-10 to 2015-16||285||102||183||64.2%|
Of the 35 remakes and reboots* that have aired since 2000-01, 13 have made it to a second season. That’s a failure rate of 62.9 percent — just about the same as any other scripted show on broadcast.
*For the purposes of this study, a remake/reboot is a new version of a previously existing scripted TV show or movie that either originated in the United States or whose original version was widely available in the U.S. (a la “Prime Suspect” or “The Office”). Spinoffs, prequels and adaptations of material from other media aren’t included, nor are adaptations of shows from overseas that audiences are less likely to have seen (“Jane the Virgin” source material “Juana la Virgen,” for instance). Continuations of older shows with most or all of the original cast still starring, like “The X-Files,” are also left out.
Screener and TV by the Numbers have been tracking the overall failure rate for first-year shows since 2009-10. In that time, just over 64 percent of new network scripted shows (183 of 285) failed to make it to a second season.
Which means that a reboot has no better chance of making it past Season 1 than any other show. Or, if you prefer, for every “Hawaii Five-0” there are about two “Bad Teacher”s, just like for every “Grey’s Anatomy” there are almost two “The Nine”s.
Four of the 13 shows that made it out of Season 1 — “L.A. Dragnet,” “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” “V” and “About a Boy” — were canceled after their second seasons. The other nine (“The Office,” “Friday Night Lights,” “90210,” “Parenthood,” “Nikita, “Hawaii Five-0,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Hannibal” and “The Odd Couple”) all ran at least three seasons, with “The Office” (nine seasons) and “Five-0” (currently in Season 7) going the longest.
Remakes can often open well — all four of the shows that were canceled after Season 2 started strong and hung on well enough to earn a second season at their respective networks. But they couldn’t sustain audience interest much beyond that, and unlike the movie business, TV isn’t built to have its product decline swiftly and steeply in the week or two after it opens.
Of the reboots that have premiered so far this season, FOX’s “Lethal Weapon” and CBS’ “MacGyver” have performed solidly. Both have earned full-season orders and stand a pretty good chance of making it to 2017-18. “The Exorcist” and “Frequency” haven’t made much noise and won’t air beyond their initial orders this season; next season is up in the air. Still to come this season are the Jack Bauer-less “24: Legacy” (FOX), “Training Day” (CBS) and “Taken” (NBC).
Networks pursuing remakes and reboots as a creative and commercial strategy probably aren’t going to be any worse off for doing so. But if the thinking is that those shows are contain some kind of special ratings-making magic, that’s not happening.