Have you ever had that friend– the one who wants to relive that one night every single time you’re together? You had an awesome night out once, complete with happenstance hilarities and giggly coincidences. It was the perfect storm of a good night. So perfect that your friend relentlessly tries to duplicate it. You go to the same bar, order the same margarita, sing the same songs in the Uber but it can never quite hold a candle to that one night. Your friend is chasing after the magic of something special you shared, but it is to no avail. The magic is never to be replicated.
That’s how I feel about reboots.
The reboot crisis became clear to me one night while I was watching NBC after dinner. I knew it was in talks, but I saw a trailer confirming Will and Grace‘s return to primetime September 28th. The trailer marketed the returning season as an exciting comeback of the beloved TV characters. I was anything but excited.
There is a distinct epidemic plaguing Hollywood writers at the moment. That epidemic is laziness. I denied it as long as I could, but this particular series revival announcement took off my rose colored glasses for good. Though I reveled in the nostalgic spirit of reboots, they are nothing but money-making schemes that tarnish creative integrity.
Let’s take the revival of Will and Grace for example. When the series came out in 1998, Will and Grace introduced a relationship between an openly gay man and single heterosexual woman. This dynamic was a milestone in LGBT media, creating an important dialogue within the show. Will and Grace was able to open discussion in American homes about what it meant to be gay in the form of a popular sitcom. At the time, sitcom television was on-trend comedic entertainment. In many ways, the “Must See TV” NBC lineup shaped what it meant to be a young adult in American culture. Will and Grace was a part of this narrative and therefore solidified its role in pop culture history.
For a television series with such success and impact, there is virtually no reason to bring it back. Will and Grace was once the premiere opportunity for LGBT exposure on television, but with the barriers it broke for future series, gay and lesbian storylines are commonplace– and almost expected– on primetime series. The appeal of Eric McCormack’s character is not nearly as profound as it was fifteen years ago.
It should also go without saying that sitcom television is a dying breed. With mass audiences gathering around for thrilling shows like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead, sitcoms have gracefully fallen from their dynastic reign of television in the 1990’s. While comedic shows will always have a home on certain networks, it’s safe to say that television has changed enough to reflect an evolution of content.
And yet- TV executives ignored these legitimate red flags and OK’d a revival season of Will and Grace. Look, I get it, I would give anything to have Jax rise from the dead on Sons of Anarchy or have Walter and Jesse make just one more batch on Breaking Bad. But I, along with plenty of other casual TV fans, know that endings are necessary to good storytelling.
One of my best friends’ favorite things (not just shows) in the world is Gilmore Girls. Every conversation contains some sort of reference to the series; so much so that Gilmore Girls made a special place in my heart because I knew how intrinsic it had become to my friend. I watched her excitedly prepare for the Gilmore Girls Netflix revival for months. When we left school for Thanksgiving break– the weekend the revival premiered– she made sure to let everyone know the exact second she began watching.
When I got the chance to ask her what she thought of the new season, there was a tinge of regret in her smile. While the reboot gave her another chance to see her favorite characters one more time, it wasn’t quite the same. And how could it be?
The issue of reboots has reared its head in the film industry, i.e. Disney’s elaborate 10-year plan to re-release live action versions of their most popular animated films. While the film industry is a separate beast from television, critically-panned reboot films like Ghostbusters (2016) and Vacation (2015) serve as perfect examples of why not to follow through with notions of rebooting popular franchises.
In my argument against reboots, I ask that audiences ask themselves these questions:
Is it relevant?
Is bringing back the same characters, storylines and story worlds pertinent? What will audiences gain from bringing these elements back? In what ways will it contend with other series?
Will it stand on its own?
Can the series carry itself beyond previous seasons? Is the series relying on audience affection and nostalgia rather than quality writing and development? Is the reboot adding to the story or compromising it?
I don’t mean to pick on Will and Grace with such intensity– there are certainly more reboots I am not looking forward to. The once hilarious Roseanne is scheduled to make a return this coming year. Though it rounded up a stable audience 20 years ago, the ABC revival will have no sort of demographics to reference. With the power of the internet, I wouldn’t be surprised if murmurs about a Friends reboot came to fruition. And if it did, I would have to at least give it a try; Friends was a fond viewing experience of my childhood. And that principle alone is what producers of reboot series depend on. I would watch because I felt obligated to, not because it was good. And a 2017 version of Friends would no doubt be disastrous. The Central Perk couches would be novelty rather than structural pieces of storytelling. The entire dynamic of the group would be completely askew. What is Friends when the friends are not young, single and living in the same building? Much in the way I have grown as a person since viewing Friends, or any other series for that matter, those memories and associations deserve to stay in the past. All good things– and TV– come to an end. Don’t believe me? Watch an episode of Fuller House.