Fall TV and the Media Multiverse: Another Look at Media Dystopia

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In Media Dystopia Episode 5, Media Multiverse, we examine the evolving TV landscape which is increasingly populated by reboots, spinoffs and adaptations of legacy titles and existing programming. Shows like Young SheldonWill and Grace, and Hawaii Five-0 typify this broadcast trend which shows no signs of slowing down.

The most popular shows on network TV are attracting older viewers, which may help explain the fresh crop of reboots and spinoffs scheduled for series premiere this season. Below we examine the most anticipated broadcast spinoffs and reboots that will debut this Fall, as well as the implications for brands and marketers.

THE CONNERS (Tuesday, 10/16 at 8pm on ABC)

The “Roseanne” reboot debuted as last season’s highest-rated TV series in the adult 18-49 demo, but was cancelled by ABC after Roseanne Barr authored a controversial tweet back in May. Barr went on to forfeit any creative involvement or financial compensation for the show, prompting ABC to order 10 new spinoff episodes under the title “The Conners.”

Actor John Goodman has stated that the Roseanne character will die in the new spinoff, and actress Roseanne Barr has recently claimed that the ABC writers have chosen opioid overdose as their means to an end.

MURPHY BROWN (Thursday, 9/27 at 9:30pm on CBS)

Candace Bergen won 5 Emmy awards in the 80s/90s for her portrayal of newswoman Murphy Brown, and most of the original cast will reunite for 13 new episodes this Fall. The reboot’s storyline begins with the main characters in retirement, but soon the election of President Trump catalyzes them to return to their careers as newscasters.

Murphy Brown’s son Avery, who was just a baby in the original series, is now all grown up and a TV newsman in his own right. He has his own show on a fictional network called Wolf Network, a parody of Fox News – in fact, his show airs at the same time as his mom’s new (post-retirement) news show, setting up a mom-son rivalry as a central theme of the reboot.

MAGNUM P.I. (Monday, 9/24 at 9pm on CBS)

Show creator Peter Lenkov already has two other reboots of 80s shows on his resume: Macgyver and Hawaii Five-0. In fact, Lenkov has stated that Magnum P.I. will co-exist in the same world as Hawaii Five-0, and characters from each show will crossover into the other.

Another major update to the Magnum P.I. reboot will be a more diverse cast of characters than its predecessor. Thomas Magnum will be portrayed by Mexican-American actor Jay Hernandez, and his partner Higgins is written as a woman in the reboot and portrayed by Perdita Weeks.


As marketers, we often think of nostalgia as a means to forging an emotional connection with Millennials. However, the broadcast landscape suggests that nostalgia also presents a powerful opportunity for advertisers seeking to connect with Generation X and Baby Boomers. We should ask ourselves what other nostalgic properties, influencers and trends could resonate with our audiences as we plan.

It is also worth considering how crossover characters and shows (ex. Magnum P.I. and Hawaii Five-0) can help tell our brand stories in new and multi-dimensional ways. If your brand offers a suite of products or services addressing a range of needs, then perhaps partnering with a property that crosses over into other “sister” properties can help communicate your brand’s offering holistically.