If you love it, let it go.

“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… fbcb2d2695c5c1e7fd26bb14b9cfac53.gif

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.

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Seinfeld, Scrubs, they’re not alone. Reboots as a whole have been pretty bad. Fuller House. 24. Oh, and let’s not forget…harry-potter-sequel-cursed-child.jpg

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.

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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.

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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 635965260890337906967484161_maxresdefault.jpg

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.

 

 

7 comments

  1. I totally agree with everything that you ranted and discussed haha. One part that really took me for a loop was the hindsight bias. I’ve never really thought about that but I was discussing a memory today from about six years ago and how much I loved it and then my mother chimed in with the “you hated xyz at that time, don’t you remember”. Due to this bias and the execs who are green lighting these projects with a $ sign for pupils, the content of these reboots is definitely lacking. I’d be surprised if Jerry Seinfeld went forward with a reboot due to his other ventures such as Curb and Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Furthermore, he has come out and said that comedy isn’t what it used to be (ironically), where jokes have to play more to the politically correct. I worry for the majority of the “new shows” as more and more are riding the coat tails of the greats. Super interesting and thought provoking blog, great job!

  2. That’s an interesting post. I totally agree with you that sequels and reboots are usually worse than the original show. But so often even after the second movie wasn’t as successful as first one, they keep making a third one etc. They know they will make the money and they are right because so many of the original fans will still go and see the movie even if they know it won’t be as good. What I never thought about is the consequences of the reboots that you pointed out. It is true that it hinders creativity and probably a lot of shows do not get a chance. I wonder what we can do as viewers. I think the only way to stop reboots from occurring is making sure they are unprofitable. And I feel like it would be hard to convince a large enough audience to ignore the reboots. But I guess just spreading the idea is a good start.

  3. Interesting post!! Not something I’ve given a lot of thought to before. Like Ksenia, it’s hard to pin down what can be done about this. I see a lot of the same issues happening with sequels. Although there are plenty of sequels are mildly successful (dare I mention, the High School Musical series), most are not. Where should producers and writers draw the line?

    I can’t help but wonder if technology is doing something to perpetuate the issue. Many social media sites provide us with access to memes and throwbacks that we might not ordinarily remember or be exposed to without the technology. Whether or not the two are connected, I have no idea!

  4. The Seinfeld parking garage episode is immediately the episode that always comes to mind when I think of why the show wouldn’t work today. A few years ago, there was a “Modern Seinfeld” Twitter account that actually would tweet out Seinfeld-esque plot lines for episodes if the sitcom was still on the air. They were actually pretty funny.

    I think everything that you said about why reboots are problematic is true. The complacency with creating things we as consumers are familiar with do not lend to developing new ideas, but I’m not sure if we can blame them as long as we continue to watch. For example, Roseanne shattered projected audiences for its premiere this past week, so like you said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I think that the important thing for networks to understand is that they need to be careful with what they choose to reboot in two ways. The first is that they need to make sure that the audience that was enamored with the show still feels that way, ensuring them that there is an audience for the show. The other way is that they need to make sure that the show is not forced to silo itself into the original. I think that has been a problem with “Fuller House”, as the characters are obviously older than they were 20 years ago, but they the writers still have them using the same catchphrases and mannerisms.

  5. This was put together so beautifully, as I wanted to read more and more as I continued reading the blog post. I cannot agree more with our tendency to “romanticize our past.” We tend to forget the hardship or difficulty we experienced, as time heals us. Yet, what was glorious, or what we consider as huge achievements still remain strong, and in fact they become stronger as time passes with larger reminiscence. I sometimes recall my time in high school and how much I missed the time back then. Every class, person I interacted with, and even the worst friend I had seem to be better than some of the toughest people I am currently dealing with. For whatever reason, people have a tendency to believe that we could have done better or resolved a conflict in a nicer way, and our current situation is the worst of all time. This is why reflection is so important, as we tend to forget our tough times in the past and complain what we are facing (unless it was such a horrendous experience that you never want to imagine again).

    My response to the question whether a reboot is a good idea is a strong no. For business purposes and from the point of view of the reboot directors, as long as it brings in $, they would and should do it. As you said, it doesn’t require much thinking or novel ideas for the reboot. However, humans’ expectation is always high after having glorious days of having huge fan base or profit. I personally have never, ever seen a reboot getting more popularity. Out of so many examples, Gangnam Style from Psy (Korean singer) is the big one. It was an incredibly huge hit for some reason, and it currently has the #1 view on Youtube, which is nuts. However, Psy also admitted that nothing he has done afterwards compares to that of Gangnam Style. No matter how much effort or time he puts in, no other songs with almost exact same style, had the same impact as Gangnam Style did. And that reality, in fact, put his confidence down. He was not happy with his work and was not satisfied despite the fact that he was still receiving hundreds of millions of views for his songs. This reboot stuff ties to an inherent human desire to want more and more. Same story applies to wealth, power, and fame. There is no such thing as satisfaction, and for those who seek happiness and content from their work/show, they should stop bringing up the same material with a bit of a tweak to make some money. It not only is not as profitable as before but also taints the glories that a series had in the past. Overall, it’s much better off leaving the heyday as it is. It is our greed that always blocks that to happen. It’s tough, but it’s a direction that I hope everyone aims at least!

  6. I think there also needs to be a distinction, just a small one, between a reboot and say, a continuation (HP Cursed Child), a sequel, and a re-imagining. So, I would say, Fuller House, Roseanne, Will and Grace – all reboots – same actors, same plot lines, same shtick. But don’t forget that Westworld is not new – its based on a Michael Creighton movie, and Game of Thrones, a book series that is still yet to be completed. So there is something to be said for this idea of “re-imagination” making something old, new and exciting. Having purely new ideas and concepts is much more rare than we realize!

    But I do think some good points where made that this culture of nostalgia stems a bit from technology allowing us to CONSTANTLY look back! Before Netflix, you had to own the 194 VHS set of Friends to rewatch it – now people can become instantly acquainted with it, which lends to the resurgence of fans for shows like Will and Grace and Fuller House.

  7. Nice post. But could have tied in the digital topic better.

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