Déjà viewing: why television is about to get very dull

Will and Grace are back and absolutely nothing has changed – seriously.

Will and Grace are back and absolutely nothing has changed – seriously. Photo: NBC

As the next crop of TV series filter in from the US, don’t worry if you get the feeling you’ve seen it all before. Chances are you have.

Reboots, remakes and recycled ideas are the order of the day as American producers become increasingly desperate to recapture the magic – and ratings – of proven successes.

Some, like the resurrected Will and Grace, are painfully obvious attempts to appeal to nostalgia (the teaser trailer even includes the cast singing “everything’s as if we never said goodbye!”).

Others, like The Big Bang Theory prequel, are relying on the fact audiences just can’t get enough of the current stars.

Then there’s those shows ripped from the pages of books, comics or movie scripts in the hope success on one platform will translate to another.

More than a dozen recycled ideas are on the way, all adding up to a “fresh” slate of programs that look very stale indeed as we head into the next era of TV – The Age of Deja Viewing.

There’s a very real reason for going with tried and true concepts over something new: money.

When the financial stakes are so high, many broadcasters have decided instead of new concepts that might work, it’s safer to go with something old that did.

If the past year of television has proven anything, it’s that big budgets don’t necessarily mean big ratings.

The Crown is acknowledged as the most expensive television series ever made, costing an estimated $US13 million per episode.

Ratings for any Netflix series are closely guarded secrets, but when streaming analysts Symphony AM ran their own numbers after the series debut, they estimated it was the 22nd most-watched show of the network’s new releases.

The rebooted Gilmore Girls, however, came in at number three.

Then there’s Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down. Despite a reported price tag of $US7.5 million an episode, it’s hardly been setting the ratings world on fire.

Although Baz insisted there will be a season two, there’s been no confirmation from Netflix and even executive producer Stephen Adly Guirgis urged fans to start using #RenewTheGetdown on social media.

Australian networks have been equally quick to drop expensive projects.

Kiss Bang Love, The Briefcase, Reno Rumble and more have all disappeared from program guides after failing the cost-versus-audience test.

Seven’s A Place To Call Home was axed after just two seasons because although it was being watched by older viewers, it was younger fans Seven needed.

It’s a cut-throat approach, but as media analyst Steve Allen said for the TV producers, it’s all about “risk and reward”.

“With challenges on eyeballs and revenue, nearly all telecasters are going back to what they believe are shorter odd bets,” he said.

“[Also these shows are] often a lot cheaper to produce and have the advantage of familiarity with vital middle age demographics.”

Which means like it or not, we’re going to see a lot of familiar faces and worn out places for a while yet.

Here are the 10 new series coming to US television (and eventually Australian TV) that have old roots.

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