Bringing Back our Favorites: Nostalgia, Revivals and the Limited Series Format

Curator's Note

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premiered on Netflix on November 25, 2016. The revival appealed not just to fans of the original series—both those who watched it during its initial run and those who had discovered it on DVD or VOD—but also generated a new set of fans, those introduced to the show through the reboot’s online buzz. The comeback of Gilmore Girls demonstrates the coalescing of new trends in a post-television age that sees the revival of popular series not as opportunities for long-running network-style series, but as short, limited series. One argument might be that the nostalgia on which these revivals capitalize is not enough to sustain the traditional twenty-four episode season and, thus, the growing popularity of the limited series format offers a more financially safe space to return to fan-favorite tv series. The Gilmore Girls revival is one in a number of series that exploit audience nostalgia. Stranger Things invokes nostalgia for an entire decade (or, at the very least, for the popular media tropes of that decade), while shows such as Arrested Development, The X-Files, Fuller House, and Gilmore Girls are direct revivals of popular shows that ended years before. Revivals of American television shows, then, are seeing a current popularity because limited series story-arcs are becoming more familiar to North American audiences. The easy availability of European dramas that have mastered the limited series format on Video on Demand sites, along with the popularity of HBO season-lengths (traditionally thirteen episodes), has changed the landscape of series storytelling. Untethered to a network schedule, VOD sites such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, can produce series and seasons of any length. Yet, the series length is not the only contributor to the upsurge of television revivals. Internet fandom and the “mainstreaming of fandom,” to quote Mareike Jenner, that emerges with the marketing of VOD sites and the promotion of binge-worthy shows, are seen most prominently in the meeting of “cult favorites” and original programming remakes. As fandom shifts into the mainstream in various social media platforms, viral marketing for an easily consumable four-episode series is financially less risky. The revival excites fans and creates fans through the buzz created elsewhere online. Jenner, Mareike. “Binge-watching: Video-on-demand, quality TV and mainstreaming fandom” International Journal of Cultural Studies (Accessed through OnlineFirst: September 18, 2015) 1-17.


Thank you for your post, Liz. I really enjoyed it. You bring up several issues that have been on my mind as I have observed the revivals of past television favorites. Just the other day, I was thinking about the fact that some of the recent revivals have been in the limited series format. Two of the shows that came to my mind as I was thinking of this trend were The Gilmore Girls and Fuller House. I have also felt that the limited series format is a less risky avenue for a program's revival than would be a regular series. Thus, your post reminds me of my own thoughts on the subject of television revivals. Your post also addresses one of the reasons why I generally enjoy the revivals of past television programs, namely because of the nostalgia these shows evoke for me. Your discussion of nostalgia also reminds me of past In Media Res posts dealing with this subject, particularly the post on Stranger Things.

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