Something along the lines of the meta, self-reflexive, satirical ridiculousness of the series Reboot was bound to happen at a certain point. We simply have too many endless franchises and revivals for the topic itself not to be creatively explored.
Fortunately, this specific exploration seems to be in relatively good hands. This Hulu series from Modern Family creator Steven Levitan opens in a mock-up of a Hulu office. There, edgy, indie, feminist director Hannah Korman (Rachel Bloom, of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend fame) is surprising executives with a seemingly rather pedestrian pitch: she wants to bring back the (fictionalized) ‘90s sitcom Step Right Up, but this time, give it a sharp edge. The catch is that the original show was started up by her father, Gordon (Paul Reiser), who left Hannah as a child for another family and who is now back on board to write the latest season.
Reboot’s meta unfolding flows seamlessly thanks to its casting of a collection of actors who are still prominent now but got their starts in iconic 2000s movies and television: the likes of Judy Greer, Johnny Knoxville, and Keegan-Michael Key. However, the show’s success comes mainly from the fact that it doesn’t rest on its self-aware laurels. Instead, Reboot — in the fluffiest, least interrogating way possible — asks some questions about this seemingly endless cycle of rebooting and franchising: what does it mean to make something fresh out of something old? Can that even happen? And, if we are to attempt it, should we rely on the old ways or embrace new ones?
The bits that shine in Reboot are the ones that literalize these questions and divides. One of the highlights of the show is the multi-generational writer’s room, divided into two groups: the “woke”, queer, diverse, well-educated young group that Hannah brings in, and Gordon’s older, curmudgeonly, politically incorrect group. The once-child-star, now twenty-something-year-old-in-arrested-development Zack (Calum Worthy) also stands as a representation of the way time has passed, and the way we are perhaps inherently held back by trying to make old ideas new.
Reboot doesn’t seem sure if all this rehashing is all that great of an idea, but it also seems to acknowledge that something about the process is inherently comforting. It’s a lot of work to come up with a new idea, and it’s even more work to change as a person (as evidenced by the various actors who return to the show and immediately seem to start up interpersonal conflicts exactly where they left off). Maybe it’s nice — if not delusional — to cling to the fantasy that good things can stay the same forever.
Paradoxically, Reboot only really feels like it works because it’s relatively fresh. The one thing it seems to actually be rebooting or revamping is a relatively structured sitcom, but even then, its jokes and storylines are solid, enough to earn an occasional good laugh and easily guide you through eight simple and thoughtful little episodes.