Homey D. Clown, Men on Film, and the Fly Girls may be making their way back to your television screen. 20th Century Fox TV recently announced “In Living Color” will return this spring after a 17-year hiatus, with Keenen Ivory Wayans reprising his role as host and executive producer. Wayans will produce two half-hour specials. If the ratings are good, Fox will have the option to order the show to series for next fall.
Fox isn’t the only media company reaching into its vaults hoping for ratings gold. In late July, children’s channel Nickelodeon devoted its late-night timeslots to the network’s 90’s programming and saw their ratings increase 500% among the coveted 18- to 34- year old demographic.
It seems everyone wants to time travel back just a few decades. Take a look at pop culture – Jennifer Lopez has endorsement deals. Beavis and Butthead are back on MTV. Newt Gingrich was considered a promising presidential candidate. Didn’t we just go through all of this? Why are the 90’s coming back so soon?
Millennials, the demographic born between born between about 1981 and 1993, are partly to blame. As a new generation enters the workforce and generates income, anyone selling anything is trying to figure out how to attract this newly lucrative audience. Now that this generation has entered adulthood, what’s the first thing they want to do? Be a kid again, of course. Old-school programming on Nickelodeon, and now Fox, plays into this desire perfectly.
When you think about it, the 90’s were a better time for everyone. 2011 is nothing but recessions, bank bailouts, class warfare, and a struggling job market. The 1990’s were about easy credit approval, Kid ‘n Play and Bill Clinton playing the sax. It’s no wonder companies want to associate their brands with the warm and fuzzy feelings of the 90’s.
Businesses that use nostalgia as a source of inspiration for new opportunities flirt with the danger of coming off dated and uncreative. However, resurrecting fan favorites creates the opportunity to right old wrongs and take old brands to a new level. We all remember how “Color” fell off when Keenen left in the middle of the fourth season citing censorship issues with the network. The revival of the show, with a cast of fresh, young talent and musical performances may give it the second chance it deserves.
Playing to nostalgia is a smart strategy. It eliminates the need to sell the audience on the product. The trick is to keep them engaged. Nostalgia alone doesn’t ensure success. The same quality and character that made something a part of pop culture in the first place needs to be continued and elevated. We will see if Fox and Wayans are up to the task this spring.