Legacy Sequels Are So In Right Now
Reboot (2022): Series Premiere
I frankly can't remember the last time I watched a traditional sit-com. I don't mean that I never watched comedies; I watch plenty of them. But for a good, long while there, maybe since the rise of television even, there was a "traditional" sit-com. I'm sure you can think of it right now: a family, all living in the same house, hanging out and learning life lessons and making corny jokes. Most of them had to have some kind of very mild hook, like "family lives together but it's a group of girls at a boarding school" (The Facts of Life), or "family lives together but instead of a mom and a dad it's a dad and two uncles" (Full House), or even "family lives together but one kid is named 'Beaver'," (Leave it to Beaver). The little hook might have been different -- "let's combine two families and have nine people living in a house!" -- but the corny results were generally the same.
Now, let's be clear, these shows were successful for a long time. Hell, shows like this are still going on, like Modern Family and Black-ish, and you really can't ever truly escape the formula. These aren't the kinds of shows I will watch but I can appreciate it when a show does a solid send up of the formula in an interesting way. Reboot, the new sit-com on HuluOriginally created as a joint streaming service between the major U.S. broadcast networks, Hulu has grown to be a solid alternative to the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime, even as it learns harder on its collection of shows from Fox and FX since Disney purchased a majority stake in the service. certainly qualifies in that regard. It's a meta-parody of not only traditional sitcoms but also of the whole concept of legacy sequels (continuing a series after the original show has been dead and gone for years, such as Full House and Fuller House). And, in a word, it's brilliant.
The show builds its conceit around a fake sitcom, Step Right Up, that was a big hit (in this version of reality) back in the early 2000s. Starring over-inflated thespian Reed Sterling (Keegan-Michael Key), damaged bad-boy Clay Barber (Johnny Knoxville), desperate housewife Bree Marie Jensen (Judy Greer), and rising kid star Zack Jackson (Calum Worthy), Step Right Up was a smash success for a few years until Reed left the show to pursue a movie career. That didn't pan out and now, nearly twenty years later, a reboot of the show is just what these actors need.
Not only has Reed failed to find huge success but none of the rest of the cast have found new lives either. Clay has been in and out of rehab, Bree married a prince but now is getting a divorce, and Zack is a laughingstock. The new version of the show pitched by Hannah Korman (Rachel Bloom) is just what they all need. It's fun, it's edgy, and it lacks that bad, corny vibe of the original. Only problem is Gordon Gelman (Paul Riser) the original creator of the show who still owns the rights to the original production. Hulu can't make a reboot of his show without him and he has decidedly old fashioned opinions about the writing and humor for the series. Heads will be butted as the new Step Right Up comes together.
While I had been hearing things Online about a new show called Reboot, one that had been getting a lot of buzzy chat, I was largely ignoring it. I mean, it wasn't a reboot of the classic 1990s cartoon Reboot, so why should I care? However, yesterday while I was browsing around, having watched everything else that had already come out for the week, I saw Reboot on Hulu and decided to give it a shot. Finding random crap and watching it because I'm bored is exactly the reason I keep Hulu around (I'm still trying to figure out why I still subscribe to NetflixOriginally started as a disc-by-mail service, Netflix has grown to be one of the largest media companies in the world (and one of the most valued internet companies as well). With a constant slate of new internet streaming-based programming that updates all the time, Netflix has redefined what it means to watch TV and films (as well as how to do it).).
Frankly, once I saw the cast it wasn't a hard decision to put the show on. Either the cast had chemistry and managed to knock it out of the park or it would suck and I could stop after 20 minutes. That's not really a hard commitment, all things considered. Thankfully the show is actually really funny, a proper send-up of the traditional sit-com, knowingly poking fun at every convention in the process. That's because the show isn't the sit-com, the show is about the making of the show within the show. That allows for way more meta humor.
Reboot lives in that same kind of genre as productions like The Larry Sanders Show and Sports Night, drawing drama and humor off of the behind-the-scenes machinations of the cast and crew. Much of the drama comes from Hannah and Gordon fighting back and forth over the tone and style of the show. Of course, as we learn at the end of the first episodes (minor spoilers if you want to go in totally unspoiled) Hannah is Gordon's daughter and her plan to reboot the show and make it edgy and different was as much to throw it in his face as to just create a good series.
I think the show mines better comedy from doing the behind-the-scenes riff than it could have if it had just thrown us into the sit-com itself and forced us to watch that show instead. What we see of the new version is that it's still a little corny, with the usual one-liners. It's not truly edgy or dark, like you'd expect from the pitch. The show around it, the real show of Reboot, though, that is edgy and much more mature. It's not just the language, but there is plenty of that, but also all kinds of topics and themes that you just won't get in a traditional sit-com.
For instance, if you wanted to hear about how one actor got an erection during a make out scene with his co-star (an involuntary one, to be fair), well that comes up (pun intended). Or how one star ends up sleeping with his younger co-star's mom because she's kinky and available. And then she called him a "good boy" and gave him orange slices. It's wrong and gross and absolutely hilarious. The show is willing to go there for a joke and I appreciate it.
Plus, of course, it's populated with an absolutely killer cast of actors. Keegan Michael Key has been a household name since he was on Key and Peele. Judy Greer is also fantastic, and she's as much of a comedy name at this point, starring in (let me check her filmography) basically everything comedy related in the last 25 years. Of course, Johnny Knoxville has his own style and he can play the resident burn-out perfectly. And Rachel Bloom made a name for herself on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and has been someone to watch ever since. I'd call them all comedy royalty but then you have Paul Riser here as well and he's been doing this even longer. Yes, his shtick is cornier but that's the point of his character and it works. Everything here works so well together.
The brilliance of this show is that it sucks you in with its meta conceit and then, in the process, gives you a hilarious (and often times horrible) look at the behind the scenes processes that must have happened on every family friendly sit-com. We all hear stories about it, how the actors behind the scenes were filthy assholes, and Reboot just shows us what that must be like. What is it, absolutely, is watchable. This is a show to check out as it plays out its first season (and, hopefully, beyond).