From 'Apprentice' To 'MacGyver,' TV Raids Old Shows To Excite Advertisers

May 22, 2016
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This past week, the TV networks held the big, splashy New York events they called the upfronts, where they try to sell their new shows to advertisers. NPR pop culture correspondent Linda Holmes says this year, one of the network's big strategies is selling you what you've already bought.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: Broadcast television is distracted at the moment by a little problem - survival. They are trying hard. They are trying live musicals, like Fox's presentation of "Grease."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "GREASE: LIVE")

AARON TVEIT: (As Danny Zuko) Summer lovin' had me a blast.

HOLMES: They are trying things that sound like I made them up, like "American Ninja Warrior" on NBC or ABC's "My Diet Is Better Than Yours."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MY DIET IS BETTER THAN YOURS")

ABEL JAMES: My plan is called The Wild Diet.

JOVANKA CIARES: Called The Wellness Smackdown.

DAWN JACKSON BLATNER: Superfood Swap Diet.

HOLMES: And one of things they'll be trying this season is familiar in the movie industry that brought you the "Harry Potter" octology and the movie based on the Angry Birds. And that's what they call IP. IP in networkies (ph) means intellectual property. Here it means building your new stuff out of old stuff. NBC already had the Chicago universe of super-producer Dick Wolf, who also created all the "Laws & Orders," "Chicago Fire," "Med," "P.D." Now they're adding "Chicago Justice." "The Blacklist" is being expanded to "The Blacklist: Redemption." And there will be an Arnold Schwarzenegger version of "Celebrity Apprentice..."

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY")

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: (As The Terminator) Hasta la vista, baby.

HOLMES: ...To replace the old "Celebrity Apprentice," which was an extension of the original "Apprentice," which lost its host to some other crazy competition show.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE APPRENTICE")

DONALD TRUMP: You're fired.

HOLMES: It goes on and on. If you liked people breaking out of prison on "Prison Break," Fox will give you the same people breaking out of a new prison. But you don't have to have all the old pieces in place. The season will bring a new round of "24" without Kiefer Sutherland, and a "Lethal Weapon" without Mel Gibson. There's a TV prequel to "Taken" without Liam Neeson and a sequel to "Training Day" without Denzel Washington. Other shows are raiding the "Archie Comics," "Romeo and Juliet." There is even a sequel to the '80s action series "MacGyver."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MACGYVER")

RICHARD ANDERSON: (As MacGyver) Anyone have any bubblegum and a Q-tip?

HOLMES: Not all of these are what you might expect. NBC's upcoming drama "Emerald City" is built on the "Oz" books, but they say it involves a bloody battle for supremacy. So when the tagline says, say goodbye to Kansas, you shouldn't hear say goodbye to Kansas but say goodbye to Kansas. Still, in fairness, you never know where the big idea is going to come from. In the fall of 1972, CBS borrowed from a movie that had borrowed from a book and made "M.A.S.H," and that worked out. Linda Holmes, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.