For 2017-18 TV season, everything old is new again

NEW YORK — As broadcast networks rolled out their plans for next season this past week, those watching could be forgiven for pulling out phones and checking the calendar.

There's the cast of NBC's "Will & Grace," ready to return. The folks at "Roseanne" are back on the couch. "Dynasty" and "S.W.A.T." are coming back with new actors, the latter settling in to a CBS lineup that already boasts "Hawaii Five-0" and "Macgyver." Just a year after its farewell season, "American Idol" will live again.

With cable and streaming services enticing viewers with bold work like "Game of Thrones," ''Stranger Things" and "The Handmaid's Tale," broadcasters entered a time machine in a quest to find something appealing.

The reboot of "Roseanne," ABC's hit 1988-97 comedy about a working-class family led by Roseanne Barr, was that network's big surprise.

"The Conners' joys and struggles are as relevant and hilarious today as they were then, and there's really no one better to comment on our modern America than Roseanne," ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey said.

CW President Mark Pedowitz said it was a "no-brainer" to order a remake of the prime-time soap "Dynasty." Much of the network's target audience hadn't been born when onscreen divas Linda Evans and Joan Collins engaged in catfights, as they were charmingly called back then.

Networks hope the reheated comfort food will appeal to those who remember the original shows as well as newcomers unaware they're not seeing an original concept.

CBS Corp. Chairman Leslie Moonves, who called the "Roseanne" comeback a "stunt" in admiring fashion, suggested too much was being made of the trend. "When you look at the totality of what's out there, it's really a small part," he said.


There is originality out there. CBS, formulaic in its dramas, has two comedy newcomers that stand out. "Me, Myself & I" looks at the pivotal moments in a man's life at different times, including age 14 in 1991, 40 in present day and 65 in 2042. The sitcom "By the Book," is about a man who challenges himself to live strictly in accordance with the Bible. It's based on A.J. Jacobs' best-selling book, "The Year of Living Biblically."

NBC's "Rise" stars Josh Radnor as a teacher who turns a high school's theater program into a boost for students and a working-class town. Producer Jason Katims has shown he has the tender touch in "Parenthood" and "Friday Night Lights."


ABC's decision to revive "American Idol," likely in the mid-season, had other networks rolling out the kind of rationalizations you'd expect to hear from rejected suitors. Producers offered it around widely before ABC bit.

Too expensive and too soon, rival executives said. The discussions were personal at Fox, where "Idol" made its original home. Fox executives said they spent millions of dollars promoting the show's supposed last season just a year ago and that it would feel fraudulent to bring it back so quickly.

"We did not see the fan excitement and enthusiasm for the show to come back that (producers) Fremantle did," said Dana Walden, chairman and CEO of the Fox Television Group. "We just had a different set of facts."


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