It’s a trend that dominated the 2018-19 development season, but at least one studio exec is suggesting that perhaps enough is enough.
At the Banff World Media Festival in Canada on Wednesday, former cable honcho turned NBCUniversal International Studios president Jeff Wachtel admitted that digging into the old library is not the most rewarding part of his job.
“We would rather not do reboots,” Wachtel confessed to the crowd. “We prefer an original vision. In this kind of super-saturated media environment, any advantage you can get to break through [makes sense]. But I do think there is a risk of leaning too far that way. On the USA Network, we studiously avoided reboots. We asked, ‘What used to work, and how do we do our version of Columbo, Murder She Wrote?’ We were lucky to find an incredible script in Monk. There is something more fun, more energizing to creative executives to figure out what really is the new version these days.”
“So there’s no Mannix coming,” added Pearlena Igbokwe, president of Universal TV studios. She and Wachtel participated in a panel discussion at Banff with Meredith Ahr, the president of Universal TV’s alternative division, to discuss domestic and international programming.
Universal TV is producing one of the hottest revivals on TV right now — Will & Grace, which received a two-season pickup from NBC. The studio is also responsible for rebooting Magnum P.I., one of its old titles that it dusted off for CBS this fall. The new Magnum that stars Jay Hernandez in the title role represents one of five reboots — the others being Hawaii Five-0, S.W.A.T., MacGyver, and the revival of Murphy Brown — that will be on CBS’ lineup in the new season.
The fact is, both Igbokwe and Wachtel admitted, reboots give a network a competitive advantage. “It just better have something fresh to say,” Wachtel warns.
That’s exactly what Igbokwe promises from her new Magnum. Hernandez is Latino and mustache-free, while his “Higgins” is played by a woman, the British actress Perdita Weeks. (As an aside, Igbokwe admitted that she first conferred with NBC Entertainment president Bob Greenblatt about the reboot, and they both agreed that CBS, not the Peacock, was the right home for the drama).
Igbokwe also weighed in on another revival that recently captured the zeitgeist: Roseanne. She said she was “surprised by the swift decision” ABC made to cancel the comedy after Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet, but “they chose the path that we would like to believe we would ultimately choose. It was wonderful to see that.”
She also understands why ABC would want to continue with some form of Roseanne without its title star. (For more on that, click here). “Then you wake up and go, oh commerce!” Igbokwe said. “How do you keep those kinds of ratings on the network?”