What do people truly want? Connection, a feeling of belonging. Sometimes we get a sense of connection through work, or even in the grocery store. Other times we meet on an app or in a bar, but regardless of how it is done, as humans, we long to be connected.
A fake TV family can feel real for 30 minutes once a week, and as viewers, we get attached. We talk about their goings on at work or in the grocery store, like it’s a real family we all know.
Or at least, we used to.
Now thanks to streaming services, we have more options when it comes to TV on demand. In fact, there is so much good TV out there, it would be impossible for anyone to watch it all—unless of course, that was their only job. It is a great job by the way. No one here is complaining! (Editor’s Note: Even as a TV Editor I can only watch a fraction of what’s out there in this Peak Era!)
Yet at a time where amazing ideas have space to flourish, and gems like Amazon’s Fleabag prove what television creators are truly capable of, it doesn’t seem to be enough. We want our old friends and family back. Is it merely a reaction to too many options?
I think that might be part of it. Hundreds of scripted shows over several platforms premiering every year is too much for anyone to sort through and find their favorite. Instead of sifting through new material, it’s easier to look for what we know and what makes us comfortable. Maybe it’s because these shows existed when options were limited.
On Friday nights, people watched TGIF which included shows like Full House and Family Matters. As such, Netflix couldn’t resist the pull of that Tanner family fandom and brought back Fuller House. It is a cheesy show, but enjoyable. All until life imitated art. In the original series, Aunt Becky and Uncle Jesse cheat to get their twins into a premiere preschool. We were left to wonder if Lori Loughlin was influenced by her character’s actions when she worked to get her girls into college; Now Aunt Becky is off the last season of Fuller House.
Back in the day on Tuesday nights, families would tune in to watch Roseanne. So she got a reboot, with The Conners. Then of course, Roseanne got on Twitter and was terrible, imploding her own show. ABC fired her, but let The Conners continue. The show is fine but, some of the love we had for the original is now tainted.
Monday night in the early aughts was primetime for Will and Grace. A ground-breaking show which I thought had a great ending. But apparently it needed to come back as well, though honestly it isn’t compelling, and now reportedly there is drama between Debra Messing and Megan Mullaly that might have led to cancelation. Why did we revisit this show? Will and Grace was amazing and now it feels like an unnecessary post-script.
But the fact that so many of these shows are disappointing doesn’t seem to matter to TV executives who just see built in fan bases and easy money. Who cares about storyline or characters when money is involved?
The problem with nostalgia TV is that we want the families the way we remember them. We don’t want the kids to grow up and have problems. Or for parents to grow older and eventually even die.
Take the Gilmore Girls. Edward Herrmann, who played Richard Gilmore, passed away in real life. When they decided to bring back the show for a reboot on Netflix, they had to include the death of a character. It was tragic. Losing a beloved character is one thing and a natural part of life, but more than that grief, most fans were forced to admit that the new season was worse than Season Seven. Something this fan didn’t even think was possible!
(Now, obviously not every reboot is a disaster. Beverly Hills 90210 is back and so far fans love it, including Paste’s Assistant TV Editor, Amy Amantangelo. So, along with some misses, there are also some hits!)
But therein lies the issue. Writers are being asked to continue a story, whether or not it could ruin what was once well loved. Sure, they can create a beautiful epilogue, but ask the Marshmallows how that went with Veronica Mars. Fans are upset, but ultimately they wanted their show back, and it did not get a happily ever after.
We want the good old days to continue, but they cannot continue as they were. Too much has changed. We are more connected than ever via social media platforms, but yet there is a growing loneliness in our culture. It seems to me that we want to go back to a common connection. Something as simple as a TV show everyone you know watched.
All the scrolling in the world cannot connect you to people at your office or in your community. It just keeps making us more disconnected.
But an old pretend friend comes on the screen and all of a sudden we feel that kinship. It’s like going back to school where we know everyone.
And yet, we know them as they were, not as they are. Even in a scripted world, people change and evolve. I’m starting to think it isn’t really possible to reboot our favorite shows without losing some of that first love. After all, a high school reunion works because it only lasts for a couple of hours, not 14 episodes!
Is the act of reviving a show ever necessary? Because now, there is no longer a need to wait to revisit your favorite TV families. You can login and watch them anytime on demand.
?As such, I think we need to bring back the rerun.
If you want to connect over a favorite show, just text 10 friends and ask them to pick one of the best shows on TV. (We at Paste share a list every week taking the guesswork out of your life). Have a streaming party, utilize the precision of your DV-R. The beauty of that option is that you can let your time viewing reruns be truly comforting. Like nostalgia should be.?
Keri is a professional chatterbox who loves watching TV & movies, reading about pop culture, and gawking at any craziness on the internet. You can follow Keri on Twitter.