According to latest estimates, “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” rode a wave of nostalgia and promotion last week. More than six million people have watched the four-part Netflix sequel to the popular TV series so far. While not the service’s biggest hit, “Gilmore Girls” is an example of how a show which left the airwaves nine years ago can still draw a sizable audience.
In fact, Netflix’s most-viewed series is “Fuller House,” currently with nearly eight million viewers. “Fuller House” is a spin-off based on ABC’s “Full House,” which ran from 1987-1995. Meanwhile, “Seinfeld,” the massive hit NBC sitcom which ended production 18 years ago, continues to air in every major U.S. city and last year Hulu reportedly paid around $160 million to make it available online. Countless other sitcoms live on and on; popular old shows from “Friends” to “I Love Lucy” can still be seen in syndication and online streaming services.
I often wonder: With literally hundreds of viewing choices at our fingertips, what gives these programs such incredible staying power? It’s not just nostalgia which propels them; programs from the ’50s through the ’00s are finding new audiences all the time. It’s highly effective marketing and publicity efforts that keep these classics in the public’s minds; for example, baseball parks host annual “Seinfeld” nights; “Star Trek” finds life in new films, conventions and retail items; and video contests and parodies of “The Office” abound online.
With December here, we also never tire of familiar holiday movies. So many of us will watch “A Christmas Story,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Polar Express,” and “A Christmas Carol,” to name just a few. As long as there’s an audience, these decades-old films and sitcoms will be shown repeatedly, and more and more sequels will be made years after the originals were first viewed. Their staying power is fueled by consistent exposure, calculated publicity campaigns and a need for content. And while new productions are being aired and promoted, Rory and Lorelai, the Tanners, and Jerry and Kramer are likely to live forever. Your favorites? Your thoughts?