Old School Rules: Hollywood Loves Gen X

Sept. 2 is shaping up to be quite the nostalgia-trip for Gen Xers. Not only can you download the new NKOTB album from iTunes today, you can also set your DVR to tape the first episode of the CW's hotly anticipated "90210" revamp, which premieres tonight.

And it's highly likely Hollywood bigwigs are doing the same. After all, you're not the only one who's dusting off your "Hangin' Tough" CD.

"I think Hollywood definitely loves the '80s," said "90210" executive producer Gabe Sachs. "Come on, the hair, the music, the look -- what's not to like? And laugh at. When it was announced that we were doing the show, we got calls from friends who were doctors, lawyers, executives that were huge fans of the original. People you would never suspect would be addicted to that show. And when I say addicted, I mean that they knew every character, storyline and location."

From "90210" to "Knight Rider" to NKOTB, Hollywood is experiencing a Gen X redux -- and it's clear that Hollywood loves the '80s and '90s. Upcoming film remakes of '80s hits "Terminator" and "The A-Team," as well as old-school horror hits like "A Nightmare on Elm Street" and "Friday the 13th" round out the trend. But while it may seem like just a fun flashback to the average fan, there are big bucks behind bringing Brenda of "90210" back.

"The obvious thing at play in this resurgence of '80s and '90s culture is the nostalgia factor," said pop culture expert Elayne Rapping, a professor of American studies at the University of Buffalo. "It's all about the target audience. The reason this is happening now is because the people who were young in the '80s and '90s -- Gen-Xers -- are now in their 30s and 40s. And you have to think of TV as basically selling viewers to sponsors. They're always looking for those 24- to 49-year-olds because they buy the most products. So how are you going to sell products to those Gen Xers? By luring them in with the nostalgia factor."

Indeed, "it's all a sort of horrible flashback," said "Knight Rider" revamp executive producer Gary Scott Thompson, who claims this is all about Hollywood bigwigs bringing back their youth. "The reason I'm doing this remake is because NBC chief Ben Silverman said "Knight Rider" was his favorite show when he was a kid. It's all these Gen X kids who grew up with "Smurfs" and "90210" and "Knight Rider" who are in charge now. It's sort of a trip to look at your youth and say, 'Hey, if I could do this now, take this thing I loved and change this and that, wouldn't it be great? And of course they can, so they do."

Thompson likens it to the pop culture equivalent of comfort food. "It's definitely nostalgia at play, because when you're recalling the show or the song, you're also recalling all the moments that came with it," Thompson said. "The fire in the fireplace, the dog curled up at your feet, dad and mom watching the TV with you, it's all the moments that go with the memory. It's visual comfort food, so it better taste as good as your remember it."

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