“If it’s the past that you love then thats where you should stay” – Yellowcard.
These lyrics are true for a lot of things in my life and perhaps no more prominently then after hearing that Jerry Seinfeld was considering a reboot of his classic and greatest comedy TV show of all time – Seinfeld. This is not a rare occurrence as in recent years there have been tons of reboots – Fuller House, Roseanne and recently I found out even American Idol have all come back (or been announced to come back) to fulfill our viewing appetites.
My issue is not the idea of a reboot themselves but that they are generally not done well and that they actually hinder new creative ideas. Think for instance that you are a being asked to pitch a new idea for a television show – are you going to attempt to create a new genuinely original idea and put in all the hard (and costly) work to build up a new fanbase or are you going to piggy-back off someone else’s (or even your own) prior successes with little to no work and an almost guaranteed large payoff? For entertainment execs, I get it. If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. But there comes a time and place where everyone either walks away or jumps the shark. Believe me, Scrubs is probably my favorite show of all time… and season 9…. just…
I don’t want to talk about it.
Seinfeld however was an exception. Jerry Seinfeld turned down the largest TV contract in history at the time – and it was a glorious end to a glorious run. But if Jerry freaking Seinfeld is considering a reboot – the question is why? Seinfeld I do not believe could be as successful today as it once was. So many issues would arise. How many episodes would never occur if the squad had a cell phone and could communicate instantly? How could one get lost endlessly in a parking garage if they have a panic alarm – etc? This is not to say that Jerry and Larry David couldn’t adapt to the times (as they illustrated quite well on season 7 of Curb Your Enthusiasm #iToilet) but that this level of excellency and charm would be slightly degraded. Not only that but the brand itself would have to change. Seinfeld had some very, very funny jokes that I’m sure if made today would be considered offensive or even racist. Also on that note, would they do Seinfeld without Kramer? Or would they expect everyone to simply forget Michael Richards famous out-burst.
Seinfeld, Scrubs, they’re not alone. Reboots as a whole have been pretty bad. Fuller House. 24. Oh, and let’s not forget…
Sorry, this book was awful in comparison to the original series. (And yes, I’m aware it was written as a play – but still.)
I’m aware these are all opinions (feel free to disagree with me in the comments) but you have to at least admit that these reboots fail to capture the charm of the original series. There are obvious exceptions to this *cough* Avatar Legend of Korra *cough* but overall quality is diminished significantly. And in my opinion this doesn’t just hurt the reboot, but hurts and takes away from the original series. They are apart of the brand and that brand is diluted when an inferior quality product is put out the same for all companies, whether it be a a movie series or an automotive manufacturer.
Beyond this personal rant I’d like to discuss as to why this phenomena or “rebooting” is occurring. The first is simply familiarity. We as humans prefer those things that are familiar to us, even as infants. It’s biological and for a greater part of our evolutionary history this preference has helped keep us safe and amongst those who are friendly. But it also makes us content and blind. When we choose what’s familiar, we fail to explore what is unfamiliar. This leads to less choice, which leads of course to less quality. Original shows and movies are wonderful – recently we’ve had Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Westworld – etc. But how many shows have we lost because people would prefer to watch a new lesser version of their favorite 90’s show? How many will we lose in the future? The issue with familiarity is we too often allow it to lead to complacency.
The other reason reboots are so recently prominent is hindsight bias. This is of course the idea that as things become more distant in our memory, the more positive these memories become. It has given birth to sayings like “the good ol’ days” amongst others. This also has led to a sort of generational wars on social media with issues like “music isn’t what it used to be” from our parents generation to even posts such as these
where we push the idea that our cartoons and tv shows are far superior to todays youth. It’s entertaining for sure, but it does speak to our inability to accept new ideas and push the agenda that old ways (specifically our old ways) are superior.
There is no issue in romanticizing the past, it’s a wonderful notion that we can think look back positively on our past and history. That being said, when we allow that love for the past to hinder our future – or the opportunity for that future – we run into real issues. Whether that be ruining the memory of our favorite shows, or missing out on the creation of our soon to be favorite one – it is important to keep our eyes and mind on the future rather than the past.