TV Reboots: Timing and the Art of Reviving a Show
July 18, 2023 9:00 AM ET
Heard on All Things Considered
By Eric Deggans
The Challenge of TV Revivals
TV reboots have become a popular trend in the entertainment industry, but they often leave fans wondering: Why now? This question has become essential, as it sets the stage for whether a revival will successfully capture the essence of the original show or fall short of expectations. A recent example of this dilemma is FX’s limited series revival, Justified: City Primeval, which brings back the beloved character Raylan Givens. While fans may be excited to see their favorite character return in a new adventure, the decision to move the setting from Kentucky to Detroit raises questions about the authenticity and appeal of the revival.
Most of all, TV reboots have to answer a simple, yet telling question: Why is this happening now?
To truly succeed, TV revivals must offer a fresh perspective and improve upon the shortcomings of the original series. This requires finding an amazing new story that demands the return of these popular characters. Unfortunately, Justified: City Primeval falls short in this regard. While it may serve as an entertaining drama for fans eager to see Raylan Givens in action again, it fails to provide a compelling reason for why this revival is happening now.
The Pitfalls of Recreating Classic Shows
And Just Like That…, the “Sex and the City” spinoff, is another recent example of a revival that struggled to answer the question of why it should exist. The original series thrived on its portrayal of sex, gender, wealth, privilege, race, and class in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The revival, however, fails to provide a convincing reason for revisiting these characters almost 20 years later. Instead, it seems to rely on the nostalgia of fans and attempts to incorporate non-white and gay characters without fully addressing the issues of privilege and character development.
It’s important for revivals to address this central question of timing and relevance. In the case of Star Trek: Picard, the revival successfully reunites major characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation in a new adventure that allows them to showcase new sides of their personalities. By embracing modern special effects and incorporating fresh storylines, the revival offers a compelling reason for why this series is happening now.
When a Revival Hits the Mark
The success of a TV reboot often lies in its ability to reimagine the original concept while staying true to its core. ABC’s new version of The Wonder Years exemplifies this by centering the story on an all-Black family. By exploring the experiences of a Black family during a pivotal time in history, the revival offers a different perspective and addresses issues that were not fully explored in the original series. This reimagining proves that a TV reboot can thrive by creating new stories and characters within the established framework.
Conclusion: The Art of TV Revivals
The decision to revive a TV show should not be taken lightly. To successfully capture the magic of the original series, revivals must answer the question of timing and relevance. It’s not enough to rely on nostalgia or the popularity of the original characters. Instead, revivals should offer fresh perspectives, improved storytelling, and characters that have evolved with the times. The best revivals find an amazing new story that demands the return of beloved characters, while also addressing the social and cultural issues of the present day.
As viewers, it’s important to approach TV revivals with a critical eye and demand more than just a rehash of past glory. By questioning the reasons for a revival and evaluating its execution, we can hold the entertainment industry accountable for delivering quality content that pushes the boundaries of storytelling.
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