The 13-episode premiere of Fuller House may have been met with mixed reviews, but critics who question whether this type of wholesome sitcom still works for television can’t ignore the PG-rated message and trending power of nostalgia.
And that’s exactly what Netflix is counting on.
The return of the Tanners and Gibblers to the small screen is just the beginning of the streaming service’s programming that targets a family-friendly audience—a demographic it claims “has been forgotten and abandoned by traditional television networks,” the New York Times reports.
As blocks like ABC’s T.G.I.F. have faded, followed by the recent rebrand of ABC Family to Freeform, aimed at teenagers and viewers in their 20s, and not families, it’s “left a significant hole in the market,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told the news outlet.
Netflix Vice President for Original Content Cindy Holland also points to the growing number of dark dramas and offbeat comedies across cable networks, as well as a shift toward reality competition shows like The Voice and live musical events like The Wiz Live! She suggests this has created a “niche specialization” where instead of channels for the whole family, programming becomes geared toward individual members of the household.
At the same time, Holland said Netflix noticed more people streaming 1980’s flicks like The Karate Kid and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, which indicated “more families are looking for things to watch together when they’re home.”
Netflix is working on at least six series expected to air in 2017 that seek to fill that family-friendly void. They include the revival of Gilmore Girls; Green Eggs and Ham, based on the Dr. Seuss book; Hater Back Off, starring Miranda Sings from YouTube; the animated series Trollhunters which draws from Voltron; and Stranger Things, a series starring Winona Ryder that Holland compared to the 1980’s movie Stand by Me, but with a supernatural element.
If you’re thinking many of these upcoming shows are essentially reboots of programming that conjures happy thoughts for Generation X viewers—you’re not wrong.
“There’s a little element of nostalgia at play in gaining parent’s interest,” Holland told the Times.
Fuller House is a prime example of a series that taps into fond childhood memories of sitting on the couch with mom and dad for some lighthearted laughs. The show flips the ABC series Full House script and teams up D.J., Stephanie and Kimmy, all grown up, to take care of four children.
Netflix even brought back Full House creator Jeff Franklin to get the vibe right.
“There’s a place for a show like this,” Franklin said in an interview with PromaxBDA. “It’s comfort food, and there just aren’t shows written any more geared for the whole family to watch together. That used to be such a TV thing and it’s just not anymore.”
Still not convinced?
Holland points to the data, highlighting a bare bones Fuller House trailer that received a record-breaking 14 million online views and a Fuller House skit on The Tonight Show, which has been viewed more than 27 million times on Facebook.
Now, it remains to be seen whether Netflix’s 75 million subscribers worldwide will follow through by cuddling up with the kids for some good ol’ family binge watching.