Rebooting old sitcoms has become the biggest craze among television studios over the past few years.
From Full House to Murphy Brown and everything in between, just about every classic sitcom has either been renewed for a revival season or rumored to be considering a reboot.
For fans, it’s an opportunity to check back in with their favorite characters. For studios, it’s an opportunity to make some more money off of their existing intellectual property.
It’s a trend that can largely be traced back to Netflix’s decision to revive Arrested Development for a fourth season, after many years of such a revival being discussed and wished for by fans.
But what that fourth season of AD and most subsequent revivals have proved is that reboots rarely, if ever, capture the magic of the original product.
The first half of the fifth season (thanks a lot, Netflix) of Arrested Development was released on May 29, and it furthered the divide between the original series and its revival. The jokes are less sharp, the editing is frustrating, and despite the best efforts of the cast, the characters don’t feel the same.
It didn’t help that so much time passed between seasons, making the show’s in-universe timeline increasingly confusing.
But it’s the risk you take with reboots. The original casts have almost always moved onto other projects, the writers have branched off in different directions, and getting everyone back under the same roof becomes half the battle.
And over the past few months, we’ve begun to see another new potential complication for reboots: the possibility that the behaviors of some of the people involved won’t age well.
Consider AD and how its fifth season has become entangled in controversy over the continued presence of Jeffrey Tambor, an integral part of the show’s cast who has been accused of improper sexual advances by two former co-workers – and of improper professional behavior by fellow AD cast member Jessica Walter.
It all culminated in an extremely unfortunate New York Times interview wherein Jason Bateman attempted to hand-wave Tambor’s behavior while Walter wept in the background.
Moving forward, the show will likely have to continue justifying Tambor’s presence, or consider dropping him – divorcing the reboot even further from the original series.
And even when everything goes perfectly, all it takes in 2018 is one tweet for everything to come tumbling down.
When ABC announced that Roseanne would get a reboot, much concern was raised over Roseanne Barr’s past behavior, her love of conspiracy theories, and her fervent support for Donald Trump.
But Roseanne’s tenth season turned out to be a huge success ratings-wise, and even garnered somewhat positive reviews. Of all the reboots thus far, it was closest to capturing the essence of the original.
Unfortunately, the concerns about Barr’s stability proved correct. Her racist tweet comparing Valerie Jarrett to an ape went viral – the bad kind of viral. The reboot was quickly canceled, and even repeats from the original series were pulled from several networks and Hulu.
The best possible iterations of reboots capitalize on what made the show great to begin with, but the reality is that recapturing everything that made the show great is next to impossible. And even if you do, the people who made the show great might not hold up to modern scrutiny – or any scrutiny, in Roseanne’s case.
Sometimes, it might just be best to let classics remain classics.