Everyone’s talking about the retro trend in television as iconic shows from the ’80s and ’90s are getting 2018 reboots.
The latest example is Roseanne, the sitcom that was lauded during its original run for its realistic portrayal of a middle-class American family. The show returns to ABC on March 27, complete with its full original cast including Roseanne Barr and John Goodman, who are both 65 now.
Roseanne is just another example of this TV trend. In fact, the major networks are all bringing back successful shows from the past, each of which still has a surprising degree of relevance in 2018.
NBC has revived Will & Grace, a sitcom that broke ground in the ’90s. Its depiction of Will Truman, played by Eric McCormack, 54, a gay lawyer, and his roommate and best friend, Grace Adler, played by Debra Messing, has won critical and commercial success and has ranked among NBC’s top shows. Meanwhile, CBS is slated to bring back Murphy Brown with original star Candice Bergen, now 71, returning to her lead role. What’s more, CBS has also announced the development of upcoming reboots for both Magnum, P.I. and Cagney and Lacey.
Behind the trend
There’s a clear reason why marketers are betting on retro programming. These beloved shows are a surefire way to connect with the 50-plus demographic, which controls over 51 percent of all consumer spending. Considering that the U.S. 50-plus population spends $3.2 trillion annually—a sum that is greater than the GDP of nations such as Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom, Brazil and France—it’s easy to see their appeal to Hollywood.
What 50-plus viewers want
There are a number of reasons why 50-plus consumers are turning to the wide variety of reboots.
First, they want to see themselves depicted on screen. From the small screen to the cinema, 50-plus audiences want to see characters who represent their age group. It’s no surprise then that Hollywood has been creating more TV shows and films that feature 50-plus actors. In fact, three of the four winners for acting at the 2018 Oscars were over age 50, including Frances McDormand, 60, for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Gary Oldman, 59, for Darkest Hour; and Allison Janney, 58, for I, Tonya. The youngest acting award winner, Sam Rockwell, also for Three Billboards, will turn 50 in November.
Second, the 50-plus demographic is working longer. In fact, more than half of workers 50–64 are still working. Murphy Brown broke ground when it first debuted in 1988 with its depiction of its eponymous lead as a 40-something news anchor (and single mom) played by Bergen. The fact that the show will return with its original star, now in her 70s, reprising her role as a top journalist reflects the fact that this demographic is still a powerful force to be reckoned with in the workplace.
Third, this demographic is passionate about making a difference. From McDormand’s depiction of a bereaved mother taking on the police in a quest for justice to Oldman’s representation of Winston Churchill serving as the U.K.’s prime minister during WWII at the age of 65, some of the biggest films show that this demographic is passionate about not taking on a backseat role in life just because they’ve passed their 50th birthdays.
The bottom line
In 2018, Hollywood has now fully embraced the 50-plus consumer and is creating content with this essential audience in mind. Smart marketers can take note and borrow Tinseltown’s script for how they can reach the powerful 50-plus demographic.