As more studios prepare to launch streaming services in hopes of rivaling Netflix, the search is on for ways to hook the most viewers. While most streaming services, like Disney+ and Quibi, are keen on telling multi-generational stories that look ahead, that doesn’t appear to be the case for all of them. Recently, NBCUniversal’s Peacock released its first trailer, teasing its offerings on the forthcoming service. And the teaser undoubtedly left a mark, albeit perhaps for all the wrong reasons.
While it’s not uncommon for streaming services to lean into nostalgia as a selling point — Friends being the prime example of this — it isn’t common for most of a new service’s titles to consist of revivals. Peacock is hoping shows like Saved by the Bell and Punky Brewster, two titles that were popular in the ’80s, will hook audiences. However, it’s a strange way to launch a new streaming service. Yes, these titles do have their fans, and Saved by the Bell continues to be discovered by a new generation courtesy of Netflix. But, while CBS All Access succeeded in relaunching the Star Trek franchise with Star Trek: Discovery, that was a long-standing property with a built-in fanbase. So, why is Peacock stuck in the past, hoping to build upon what once worked?
There are some things to keep in mind concerning Peacock, of course. While it is surely being developed in hopes of becoming a worthy competitor for the likes of Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu, it never seemed destined to try to overtake those services. And the streaming service’s price-tiers prove as much. Prospective viewers will have the option to be a free subscriber or choose between an all-inclusive tier with ads for $5 or an ad-free all-inclusive tier for $10. Those prices are more in line with CBS All Access, a service that, much like Peacock, looks to be an expansion of its network brand rather than a possible streaming giant in its own right.
So, while its dependency on the past does initially seem odd, it shouldn’t be all that surprising. Revivals like Fuller House, The Conners, Will & Grace and even the most recent season of Veronica Mars proved to be worthwhile risks for the studios involved. Although Netflix has since canceled Fuller House, the series was huge upon launch, as was the case with the recent seasons of Will & Grace and Veronica Mars. And while The Conners started as a full-on Roseanne revival, and was forced to readjust due to the former star’s controversial remarks, it continues to do well for ABC. Suggesting that even if shows like Saved by the Bell or Punky Brewster may not be critical hits, both series may just be enough to build buzz and that’s more than enough for an upcoming streaming service.
There is one standout drama, though, and that’s the adaption of Brave New World starring Solo: A Star Wars Story actor Alden Ehrenreich. The series, which is based on the novel of the same name by Aldous Huxley, is one of the few titles that isn’t a revival. It is, however, an adaptation of a novel that continues to be required reading for high-school students. One can only hope it fares better than HBO’s take on fellow classic Fahrenheit 451, though. And if Brave New World isn’t your cup of tea, Peacock will be the home of fan-favorites, including The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock and Law & Order, as well as several releases from Universal and Dreamworks Animation. It’ll also help launch the second Psych movie, which is based on the beloved USA Network series that ran for eight seasons.
Like Disney+, Peacock may not have the biggest library upon launch and there is a chance it may be relying too much on the past. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the wrong way to go about things. When it comes to launching a streaming service, there truly doesn’t seem to be a right and wrong way to do so. Although Saved by the Bell may not seem like the best series to reboot for a new streaming service, it is a show that could bring in viewers from a variety of demographics. And it may just prove to be a worthwhile risk in the end.
Comcast cable customers can check out a sneak peek of Peacock now ahead of its July launch.
NBCUniversal's Peacock might be leaning too much on nostalgia to sell its forthcoming service, rather than looking ahead to the future.