Monday, October 26, 2020
Oct. 26, 2020

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Networks turn back time with ‘new’ programming

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It was deja vu all over again at the recent upfronts, the spring ritual in which the broadcast networks — and various cable outlets — showcase their wares for media buyers, advertising executives and jaded reporters in an effort to woo ad dollars.

The ostensible point is to show off new programming, but there was precious little that qualified as unique from the five major broadcasters, who opted for reboots, revivals, prequels and spinoffs. Even some technically new series had a derivative whiff about them.

Call it comfort food or call it week-old leftovers; either way, it was all a bit too familiar.

“This is like your own personal ‘Groundhog Day,’ ” joked James Corden, host of CBS’ “The Late Late Show” Wednesday at Carnegie Hall. “There must be an easier way to do this! Can’t we just play the tape from 2002?”

The week kicked off with a Monday morning performance by the cast of “Will & Grace,” which NBC is bringing back in yet another bid to resurrect its Must See Thursday nights, and wrapped up Thursday when the youth-skewing CW network teased a remake of a 30-year-old soap, “Dynasty,” from the creators of “Gossip Girl.” The nostalgia was rampant and not concentrated on any particular era.

ABC plugged revivals of “Roseanne,” which went off the air in 1997, and “American Idol,” which went off the air last year.

The much-publicized and arguably premature revival of the once-dominant reality series prompted snark from CBS Chairman Les Moonves, who joked onstage at Carnegie Hall that “the old idea of just one coveted demographic is so dated, you know, like ‘American Idol.’ ”

Not that his network — home of “Hawaii Five-0” and the recently canceled “The Odd Couple” — is exactly afraid of going retro. Among its new dramas this fall is “S.W.A.T.,” an update on the ’70s action series.

Nor does CBS fear going back to tapped wells in other ways: The highlight of its fall lineup is “Young Sheldon,” a prequel to the top-rated sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

Even the lack of originality wasn’t new. Instead, it played like sequel to last year, when a slew of familiar titles — including “Lethal Weapon,” “The Exorcist,” “Training Day” and “24: Legacy” — were on the docket.

Another trend that shows no signs of stopping is music. In addition to the reboot of “Idol,” stagings of the musicals “Rent,” “A Christmas Story,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” are in the works. NBC also has “Rise,” a scripted drama about a small-town high school production of “Spring Awakening” — think of it as “Glee” meets “Friday Night Lights.”

While there was an increased number of shows about disgruntled white males, including “AP Bio” on NBC, diversity also continued to be a key theme at several of the presentations.

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