Why are TV Reboots and Spin-Offs so Popular?

Over the years many shows have been revived and spin-offs created - but why are they so popular?

John Heycock
21st March 2022
Credit: IMDb
When TV companies are needing a new show, they seem to be increasingly turning to, well… old ideas.

It is undeniably difficult to create new formats which audiences will enjoy and crucially keep watching. Every year, plenty of new shows will appear on our screens, only to never be seen again. Only a select few, usually tried and tested formats, stick around for each new cycle.

If we take The Void, a brand new ITV show in 2020, for example: it was mediocre at best - trying to be both Total Wipeout and Ninja Warrior UK at the same time, it achieved neither. Failing to make a splash, viewers turned off and the show was cancelled after one series. Travel to the States however, and the Wipeout reboot I wrote about in October has made an impact, currently airing it's second series with high-profile star John Cena (Peacemaker) at the helm.

Credit: IMDb. Contestant falling in Total Wipeout

Rebooting a successful show from the past or creating a spin-off of a current show therefore may seem like a logical method to work around this problem. A show with a known brand and already boasting a captive audience is much more likely to get the reach required to succeed. More casual fans might also tune in for a dose of nostalgia or to see a new twist on something familiar.

The return of an old show can often delight fanbases who've been waiting years for a new series of their favourite show. But bringing back a new show comes with a great deal of risk as it may not be perceived to have done justice to the original format, perhaps by changing too many aspects that made the show what it is, or bringing the show back unchanged whilst the industry has moved on. Get it right, however, and the rewards can be huge.

A show with a known brand and already boasting a captive audience is much more likely to get the reach required to succeed.

Perhaps the most famous reboot of them all, Doctor Who, provides a shining example of a rebooted show finding its time and space. After a long original run from 1963 to 1989, spanning 7 different doctors, the show was attempted to be revived in 1996 with the release of a movie. Whilst somewhat successful in the UK, it flopped in the US. In 2005 however, Doctor Who was brought back for a new run which proved highly successful and continues to this day. At the peak of its popularity, a rebooted Doctor Who launched spin-off shows Torchwood (2006-2011) and Sarah Jane Adventures (2007-2011). Both could target different audiences to each other and the main show, whilst also sharing many viewers with their original counterpart.

Credit: IMDb. Christopher Eccleston stars in the first series of the rebooted Doctor Who

The truth is, some juggernauts of shows are just too big to slay. Captive audiences take time to develop, and in a crammed market with ever-increasing production costs, sometimes an old friend is also your most reliable.

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