TV Reboot? Or Revival? Here Are the Definitive Definitions — Don't @ Me!

TV Reboots Revivals Difference

If you follow me on Twitter — and really, why wouldn’t you? (unless I blocked you for coarsely cursing that I cover “Olicity” too much/not enough) — you’ve seen me cast side-eye at news outlets that improperly apply the terms revival and reboot.

So once and for all, let’s put the definitive definitions to paper, so that they can be framed and or properly filed away in the Library of Congress as anyone sees fit.

Most simply said, a TV REVIVAL shares a continuity with the original series, and at least some original cast members.

A TV REBOOT may share a title and inherent premise with the original series, but it establishes its own continuity, possibly revolves around new characters and always features a new cast. (Fact is, reboot is largely a dandied-up version of the word remake, which someone at some point must have decided sounded lazy.)

Recent TV revivals include Will & Grace, Roseanne, Arrested Development and the upcoming Murphy Brown, whereas the reboots… well, they are many, from CBS’ trifecta of Hawaii Five-0, MacGyver and the upcoming Magnum P.I., to Dynasty, One Day at a Time and Lost in Space.

TNT’s Dallas? Revival. Showtime’s Twin Peaks: The Return? Netflix’s Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life? Revival, revival, revival.

The CW’s upcoming Charmed? Amazon’s The Tick? The CW’s midseason drama Roswell, New Mexico? Reboot, reboot annnnd… reboot.

Fox’s recent investigations into The X-Files? Revival, obviously. Syfy/Sci-Fi’s Battlestar Galactica? Totally a reboot.

There are some grey areas! The CW’s 90210 and Melrose Place could rightly be called revivals of the Fox originals (shared continuity! appearances by original cast!), and yet “sequel” or “follow-up” feel a bit more accurate. (Along those lines, the Designing Women series now in development at ABC is being described up front as a “sequel,” since it focuses on characters related to the original Sugarbakers, yet might feature appearances by original cast.)

More greyness: Fox’s 24: Live Another Day was a revival, but I would argue that 24: Legacy — which thrust a brand-new hero into the world of CTU — leans more toward reboot, even though Tony Almeida and Edgar Stiles were a part of its continuity.

The trickiest nut to crack may be The Conners, ABC’s imminent Roseanne-less incarnation of its Roseanne revival, which has typically been called a SPINOFF. But does it also inherit the “revival” mantle from its sire, seeing as it’s basically a continuation of same minus a key character? Or does the absence of that key, title character establish The Conners as its own show, and thus make it purely a spinoff?

These are the things we worry about.

Lastly, you may wonder: Who among the broadcast networks dips into the revival/reboot/spinoff well most often?

CBS at this instant has nine programs that fall into any of those three categories, if you grandfather in JAG spinoff NCIS and each of its own offshoots. The CW has five (not counting Supergirl, which technically wasn’t spun off of the Arrowverse), NBC counts four and ABC at this instant has two (with another two currently in development). With the 24 and Prison Break franchises in a holding pattern, Fox right now has just Last Man Standing (keeping in mind that Star crossed over to Empire some time after its launch).

Do you dispute any of the above classifications? (It’s OK to @ me, actually.) And which shows do you have a tough time putting into one box or the other?

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