Every Fall TV season brings about a new round of series premieres for viewer consideration.
Sub-par shows will quickly reveal themselves and likely be canceled soon after they debut.
And, unfortunately, some quality shows won’t catch on or be given a fair chance to find an audience, and they too will ultimately face their demise.
To quote Bruce Hornsby, “That’s just the way it is. Some things will never change.”
But now there’s yet another Fall TV season tradition: the reboot of an old television series.
Reboot, Reboot, Reboot.
Reboots have become so commonplace, it makes you wonder if TV networks have given up on their quest for originality.
Increasingly, they’re preferring to go the less creative route, assuming that a classic show’s fan base will automatically tune in to watch any reboot of an old favorite.
As far as networks are concerned, all they need to do is reuse an original show’s name, shake up the premise a little bit (or not), and, voila, they’ve recaptured lightning in a bottle!
Actually, it’s quite the opposite.
Networks fail to realize that reboots do NOT produce warm and fuzzy nostalgic feelings, especially when efforts to comprehend what made the original show so beloved in the first place are lacking.
Consequently, most reboots come across as gimmicky.
But make no mistake, networks know that.
Their priority isn’t to challenge a reboot’s intentions or determining whether a reprisal should even be pursued. Instead, the focus is on getting TV audiences (old and new) curious enough to tune in and check it out. Maybe even lure them with the good ole “This time it’s different!” angle.
As a result, the most effort will go into how they’ll market the reintroduction of their reboot.
They’ll determine which marketing term will best position it and sounds most appealing, using whichever “re-” buzzword fits best.
It might be a “refresh,” “re-imagining,” “revival,” “retake,” etc. — but a reboot is a reboot is a reboot.
Why not call it a “recycling,” even a “regurgitation,” while they’re at it?
NEW FALL 2018 REBOOTS
The 2018 Fall season has its share of new reboots.
“Murphy Brown” returns to once again tackle hot-button political issues. According to the reboot’s official press release, it will focus on topics like cable news, social media, fake news, etc. (How well has that worked for late-night TV?) Viewers will ultimately decide if this “fresh take” is warranted. (Update — CBS ended “Murphy Brown” after one season. Whether it was supposed to last only one season is debatable — its ratings were weak. Hard to believe it wouldn’t return for a second season if the ratings were strong.)
The “Magnum P.I.” reboot has a Magnum without his trademark mustache (and not played by Tom Selleck) and a female Higgins character. Does that qualify as groundbreaking?
As for bringing back “Charmed,” The CW network referred to it as a “feminist reboot.” The mere reboot concept rubbed many “Charmed” fans the wrong way — not only did one cast member from the original series (Holly Marie Combs) criticize this “reimagining,” fans created the Twitter hashtag #StopCharmedReboot to share their outrage about this new version.
Netflix also has another reboot: “Sabrina The Teenage Witch” will be brought back to life as “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.”
Who knows, maybe some of these reboots will be great successes — in terms of quality and ratings — but I won’t hold my breath, especially once the curiosity factor is gone.
“Reboot” Is The Word
While the latest slew of reboots always gets attention, it’s easy to forget many others already in existence.
It makes you wonder what year you’re living in when you check your TV listings and see new episodes airing from current shows like: “Will & Grace,” “MacGyver,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Dynasty,” “Roseanne/The Conners,” “Star Trek,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Fuller House,” “One Day At A Time,” “Arrested Development,” and so on…and so on.
Failed Canceled TV Reboots Have Taught Networks Nothing
I recall decades ago watching “new” series as a kid…and being utterly confused.
I couldn’t understand how (or why) a series that had already ended its run was somehow returning. It clearly wasn’t the same show and didn’t even have the same cast! Didn’t anyone else realize that?
Yet we were made to believe that the magic was back.
It just didn’t make sense.
Who can forget “WKRP In Cincinnati”…
But who can remember “The New WKRP In Cincinnati,” a series “sequel” which didn’t include most of the original show’s main characters?
“The Munsters” was an unmistakable classic series…
But who’s frighteningly bad idea was the 1988 series “The Munsters Today”?
Yet another “Munsters” reboot was attempted in 2012, called “Mockingbird Lane.” Fortunately, it didn’t make it beyond a pilot.
“All in the Family” remains Must-See TV…
But what were they thinking with “704 Hauser Street”?
Technically, “704 Hauser Street” (the Bunkers’ home address) was a “spin-off,” but its premise was admittedly a “twist” on “All In The Family” and its characters.
When you’re doing a re-telling (another “re-” word) of a classic series and its social themes — heck, also having it specifically take place in the same household! — it’s just not very inspiring.
Sure, it’s great to see John Amos from “Good Times” starring in his own show, but this ’90s series was put out of its misery after only five episodes…and for good reason.
Other more recent failed canceled TV reboots…
“The Muppet Show” was family-friendly entertainment…
Unlike “The Muppets,” a more “adult” version. Huh?
“The Odd Couple” was hilarious and unforgettable…
Unlike the forgettable and cringe-worthy 2015 reboot.
I don’t think networks learned much of anything from these failed canceled TV reboots (more on that below), but I’m sure they’re big believers in the old saying: “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again…and again…and again.”
Or something like that.
More TV Reboots Planned And In Development
Here are just some of the reboots you’ll be hearing more about in the future:
“The Twilight Zone” reboot:
Yes, one of the most original shows in television history is being rebooted again (this is not the first or second time a “Twilight Zone” reboot has happened.) The latest one already in the works comes from Jordan Peele (Get Out).
It must be very exciting news for anyone who’s been dying to know what Melmac’s most popular citizen is up to.
“The Facts of Life” reboot:
You take the good, you take the bad. You make a reboot, and there you have…well, you know.
“Mad About You” reboot:
I must have missed the public outcry demanding this reboot. But if “Will & Grace” can do it, I guess why not.
Kelsey Grammar confirmed a reboot is being explored. I’d prefer to leave my fond memories of this series alone, especially with the passing of John Mahoney.
From Kenya Barris, the creator of “Black-ish,” this version will feature an interracial couple as its lead characters. (Side note: Barris is also working on a big-screen version of the TV series “Good Times.”)
Fox has given Diablo Cody (Juno) and Liz Astrof (“2 Broke Girls”) the green light to move forward with a pilot to resurrect Alice Hyatt — no longer a widow in the reboot, but a divorcee. Well, kiss my grits…
“Miami Vice” reboot:
The cop drama which epitomized 80’s excess is being resuscitated by Vin Diesel’s production company.
“The Jetsons” reboot:
ABC is exploring a LIVE ACTION version of this classic cartoon. Wait…what?
“The Munsters” reboot:
Believe it or not, yet ANOTHER “Munsters” reboot. Even though the 1988 and 2012 reboots failed, NBC is re-re-rebooting the show, this time with Seth Meyers as one of its creators.
“Designing Women” reboot:
This is being described as a “sequel” to the original ’90s series….which reminds me of “The New WKRP In Cincinnati,” another series positioned as a “sequel” to an original show.
“Married With Children” reboot:
This one has been talked about for quite a while, most notably by David Faustino. As more reboots continue to successfully make it to air, I wouldn’t rule out its return. (Side note: Ed O’Neill already starred in one reboot of his own: 2003’s TV series “Dragnet.”)
What’s Old Is New…Over And Over Again
I’m reminded of the days when you watched “The Flintstones” knowing full well that it was basically a cartoon version of “The Honeymooners,” yet still enjoyed it for what it was.
Blue-collar sitcom “The King of Queens” can also be deemed a more modern-day version of “The Honeymooners” — it even paid tribute to the series in one of its episodes.
Both shows may have been inspired by the classic series, but they also successfully stood on their own.
In neither instance did it feel exploitative or like a poor imitation where a network was trying to “put one over” on audiences.
Viewers quickly realize when a show is a karaoke equivalent of an original — a knock-off, lacking in substance, enthusiasm, and just plain dull.
With each passing year, it becomes more evident that networks are rehashing shows, digging up old treasures sitting in their libraries to see which ones can be resuscitated in some way, quality be damned!
And that’s a shame.
Failed Reboots: The Same Can Apply To Movies
As a fan of the movie Wall Street, I was initially excited about its “sequel” and the opportunity to revisit its world of memorable characters.
Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t much of a sequel.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps was more of a preachy “re-telling” about greed (during a different financial crisis) that lacked depth, resulting in a weak replica that paled in comparison to the original.
The guilty pleasures of the original film were also gone.
And dedicating only two minutes to dismissively explain what happened to Charlie Sheen’s “Bud Foxx” (the original film’s main character) only added to what a disappointment it was — Sheen’s cameo as well as the sequel itself.
Sorry Shia LaBeouf, but between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Wall Street sequels, I would have been better off not revisiting the worlds of those classic films I so fondly remembered.
The same goes for the “official” sequel to Dumb & Dumber — Dumb & Dumber To (not to be confused with Dumb & Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd – the “money grab” faux prequel/sequel.)
Dumb & Dumber To was a rehash of the original — the filmmakers literally reminded viewers of that during the movie’s end credits, juxtaposing similar scenes between the original and the sequel.
Besides a very brief moment of giddiness when seeing Harry and Lloyd on screen again, the humor and silliness of the original were gone. All that remained was a depressing imitation.
One more example…
Anyone in their right mind knows you can’t make a Three Stooges movie without the actual Stooges. Not only is it wrong, it just isn’t possible.
Yet a Three Stooges movie was made…and it was such an uncomfortable letdown.
Nothing against the actors portraying the Stooges or The Farrelly Brothers’ and their attempt at a homage, but The Three Stooges are one-of-a-kind.
Far too many movies these days are plain remakes that are poorly executed. Regardless if they fail, we know even more of them will be right around the corner.
Hollywood should stop messing with the inimitable classics of the past.
Don’t try to reproduce history. That’s not the way it works.
Nostalgic Logic – Final Thoughts
Reboots have overstayed their welcome.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but that shouldn’t apply to ripping off genuine, original ideas solely for a money (or ratings) grab.
Classic shows are considered classic for a reason. They feel special when thought about, talked about, and looked back upon…no matter the number of repeated viewings. They exist in a vacuum from a different time and deserve to remain within their precious time capsule.
Similar to when The Fonz famously jumped that shark on “Happy Days,” audiences can only tolerate so much before they start questioning intent (and logic).
Just because you CAN do something doesn’t mean you SHOULD. That applies to reboots or anything else for that matter.
I think back to “All In The Family” and Archie and Edith’s iconic chairs. They’re not just dispensable props sitting in a warehouse somewhere, ready to be used again for another TV show’s decorative set.
No, those chairs are permanently on display in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, there for visitors to admire, reflect upon, and appreciate the television history they represent.
Behind glass, the chairs are preserved and protected treasures — which is precisely how networks should treat classic shows in a world of reboots.
They should be left alone and considered untouchable.