How many times have you watched an old series and thought, "Man, I wish this were still on?" Maybe you were a fan of a show that missed out on a satisfying ending, and you wish you could say goodbye to those fictional characters with a bit more closure. Or perhaps you binge-watched a nostalgic program and recalled a simpler time in your life, and now want to somehow get those feelings back.
Netflix is picking up on your desires and running with them. The streaming service has successfully revived a number of TV series, and it doesn't look like the company will stop bringing back old shows anytime soon.
A Return to Stars Hollow
Netflix, of course, isn't the only streaming service or network to produce revivals of old television series, but the service has built up some of the most buzz from doing so.
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Take, for example, Netflix's latest revival series: Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. The original Gilmore Girls was a beloved WB/CW series from Amy Sherman-Palladino, which has continued to draw in new viewers thanks to reruns, DVDs and the show's recent availability on Netflix. Sherman-Palladino herself was not involved with the original run's final season, which many fans considered lackluster. For years, the show's cast and crew tossed around the idea of a movie or special to end the series in a more satisfactory way. When Netflix announced that it would, in fact, be producing not just a final installment, but four distinct episodes, fans were elated.
By all accounts, A Year in the Life did extremely well. Social media buzz was high leading up to the special's release just after Thanksgiving, and that buzz continued through the holiday weekend. However, Netflix doesn't give out the number of viewers for any given series, so how can anyone measure the revival's success?
The Symphony Advanced Media startup analyzes data to determine the success of media on platforms like Netflix, which don't use traditional ratings models. And according to Symphony’s viewing tally, A Year in the Life brought in an opening weekend program average of 4.9 million viewers in the age 18-49 demographic. The Gilmore Girls revival appears to have beaten out Marvel's Luke Cage (3.4 million), an original Netflix offering, but failed to surpass Fuller House, itself a revival of the classic sitcom Full House. That revival racked up 7.3 million viewers in its own opening weekend.
Those numbers aren't the only ones that services like Netflix reportedly care about. The company also wants viewers to stick around to watch the entire run of a season. Since Netflix releases all of a show's new episodes simultaneously, the company wants to know whether viewers lose interest after watching the first episode or two. Symphony's report suggests that 83 percent of people who watched the first episode of A Year in the Life stuck around to watch all four installments. That's pretty significant, considering that the revival hasn't been available for that long.
As much as Netflix dislikes talking numbers, the numbers likely still matter. The first season of Fuller House received mixed critical reviews, but did very well in overall viewer numbers, if Symphony's analysis is accurate. And, sure enough, Netflix ordered a second season of Fuller House, despite the show's lukewarm critical reception. The next set of episodes premieres on Dec. 9, less than a year after the first season of the reboot appeared on Netflix, in February. Clearly, Netflix was happy with how many people watched, despite the reviews.
Plenty to Offer
While Fuller House and Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life may be the most recent and popular revival successes on Netflix, the streaming services has several other nostalgic offerings you can check out as well.
Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is actually a prequel to the 2001 comedy film Wet Hot American Summer, so this series is a little different from most revivals. It received mostly positive reviews, and a sequel to both this prequel and the movie (yes, it does sound a little strange) is already in the works. In 2017, Netflix plans to release Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later.
Arrested Development was a hit with critics, and considered one of television's best comedies. The original series aired on Fox, and didn't always pull the numbers the network wanted. Netflix nabbed the rights in 2011, and released new episodes in 2013. A fifth season will probably premiere in 2017, and there's a possibility of an Arrested Development film as well. Rejoice, Bluth fans!
Netflix has gotten in on the movie-revival game as well, releasing Pee-wee's Big Holiday in March of 2016. The television series Pee-wee's Playhouse ran in the late '80s and early '90s, and this movie lingered in the production stage for years following the arrest of its star, Paul Reubens. But Netflix gave it a chance, and the film received generally positive reviews.
The revival series that Netflix takes on tend to do well critically and/or in viewership. But is it nostalgia that drives their popularity, or quality? A longing to return to the worlds that audiences already know does seem to drive the popularity of Fuller House and Gilmore Girls, even when critical reception isn't always favorable. Do viewers just not care if the return to Stars Hollow or the Tanner family home is good, so long as they get to see it? Why do audiences always want more of what they've already seen?
Whatever the reasons for the popularity of revivals, Netflix has done pretty well bringing back series and films that viewers have loved in the past. It's a model the company is almost certain to follow in the future, as it's clearly working out. Why mess with a great thing?