Why Netflix reviving old TV shows is exactly what we want

Gilmore Girls

In case you missed it amid the fervor over the new Star Wars trailer and Back to the Future Day, a certain part of the internet went insane on Monday as word spread that Netflix may be in talks to revive the series Gilmore Girls.

While the streaming service has yet to confirm a Gilmore Girls comeback, some will argue that Netflix should focus on creating completely original content rather than reviving an old series that already had its time.

Yet despite ending in 2007, Gilmore Girls has seen an ever-growing audience emerge beyond its existing fan base thanks to the entire series' presence on Netflix.

Speaking about the show joining Netflix's library in 2014, Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman-Palladino said earlier this year, "Out of the woodwork, a new generation of fans started coming up to us in the streets."

"They were in the embryo when the show premiered," she added, illustrating that thanks to the streaming service, a whole new audience can enjoy Gilmore Girls long after the series finale aired.

Spinoffs are still a staple in the TV world, with shows like Marvel's Agents of SHIELD spinning off blockbuster movie The Avengers, and Fear of the Walking Dead sprouting from The Walking Dead. Both cable and streaming companies also pick up shows that were dropped by others, and reboots are becoming even more common in the realm of movies (Spiderman, anyone?).

But for Netflix, original content is its focus, and along with all-new original shows and movies, this includes mining our nostalgia for revivals of old shows or films that many grew up with, reuniting the same cast in the same world, either as a prequel or a sequel.

And this really isn't a bad thing, after all, as Netflix is bringing back characters and universes that it's able to prove we love thanks the data it collects on our watching habits.

"These are reinventions of beloved shows with nostalgic value and fresh thinking," Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer, told techradar of Netflix's revival efforts. "People all over the world love these characters."

New takes on old favorites

It's not necessarily reviving these shows and movies to replicate exactly what we saw when the programs and films first aired, either. The new content Netflix is making includes sequels and prequels with altered show structures and timelines, and, in the case of prequels, characters who have aged.

Netflix revived Arrested Development in 2013, about 8 years after the show had ended on Fox, with 15 new episodes. It has 17 more planned for next year. Each new episode focuses on a different characters with flashbacks. The characters are clearly older and in different stages of their lives: George Michael Bluth, played by Michael Cera, was in college in Arrested Development, Season 4, having grown up from the high school student he was when the show lived on network television.

Arrested Development

The streaming service also brought back Wet Hot American Summer earlier this year as a prequel in the form of eight 30-minute episodes, casting many of the original actors (who are now much older and a lot more famous) as teenagers about to get ready for the summer camp featured in the 2001 film. As a farce, it makes no allusions to the fact that most of the cast playing teenagers are in their 30s.

Fuller House is planned for next year as well, reuniting the cast of Full House (except, maybe the Olsen twins) more than 20 years after the original series ended for a sequel series starting with a 13-episode run. It will focus on the much older characters, including a recently widowed DJ Tanner-Fuller who is now a veterinarian, a mother of two son and pregnant with a third. She'll get help from her younger sister Stephanie and best friend Kimmy, who will move in and help raise DJ's sons - similar to the original series but with young boys, aunts and a new generation of kids.

When techradar asked about the Gilmore Girls revival, Netflix said it couldn't confirm anything related to the series (but they didn't deny it, either), so all we have to go on is what sources told TVLine: Netflix has greenlit the project, it will likely consist of four 90-minute episodes penned and directed by the original writers Amy Sherman-Palladino and Daniel Palladino, and that the streaming service is currently in negotiations to bring together the original main cast.

Many Gilmore Girl stars have also noted the show didn't ended satisfactorily for them, adding that they would love to come back for more, mostly due to the departure of Sherman-Palladino before the last season due to a contract dispute with Warner Bros and the series' sudden cancellation.

Of course, Netflix isn't the only service to unearth gems of the past. Showtime brought back Twin Peaks for nine new episodes that continue the series, and agents Scully and Mulder are returning to Fox for a six-episode run of The X-Files in 2016.


But what's interesting about Netflix's revivals is that it's bringing back shows (and movies) that it didn't create, and in the case of Fuller House, it doesn't even have the family sitcom in its current streaming library.

"As big fans of the original Full House, we are thrilled to be able to introduce Fuller House's new narrative to existing fans worldwide, who grew up on the original, as well as a new generation of global viewers that have grown up with the Tanners in syndication," Cindy Holland, Netflix's vice president of original content, said when Fuller House was announced in April this year.

Gilmore Girls is no different with its new audience binging on old episodes, except that Netflix has data on exactly how many of us are watching the series.

And with its vast analytical database on your viewing habits, even to the point of knowing precisely when you get hooked to a series, Netflix is mining your nostalgia to determine what content will work and what won't.

"Arrested Development was the rarest of birds in that the audience of the show grew larger than the original broadcast audience because people came to discover it years after it was cancelled," Sarandos said in an interview with Stuff.tv.

In comparison, Sarandos said a TV show like Firefly (which already had its revival moment with the film Serenity), wouldn't work for a revival as its fanbase, though loyal, isn't growing.

"The Firefly fan is still the Firefly fan from when it was on TV and there's fewer of them and they're more passionate every year," he noted, and he would know: Firefly is currently available to stream on Netflix.

While Firefly fans may disagree with the above statement, there's no denying Netflix knows exactly what shows to bring back because we tell it through what we keep binge-watching.

Personally, I'm OK with this, because Netflix is still creating new series like Orange is the New Black and Narcos, and when it does mine our nostalgia to bring back a show, it does it because we, as an audience, watched it, re-watched it and loved it.