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To reboot or not to reboot? That is the question

Written by TV

Fans of Gossip Girl from the Upper East Side and beyond were elated to hear from HBO that the hit series would return with a reboot on their streaming service, HBO Max. I’m unsure as to who Max is, but you can be sure that he’ll be showing us more of Blair Waldorf and Chuck Bass in the future. But this begs the question? If Gossip Girl, a show that only ended a mere seven years ago deserves a reboot, what else does?

Both the film and TV industry are rich with reboots at the moment, with countless properties, from Charmed to Magnum P.I. returning in these last few years. The success of these reboots ranges from fantastic to brain-meltingly poor, to such a degree that some nostalgic fans would rather have their beloved franchises left alone. With this in mind, what does it take to give a series the re-boot?

Critics on all accounts agreed that the series had taken the story in a satisfactory direction

The main motivation behind most reboots, other than money, is usually age. Take the 2011’s Teen Wolf, for example. It had been 26 years since the original film had been released, and it hadn’t aged well in this relatively short time. The property needed a freshen up, and Jeff Davis did a mostly good job. Critics on all accounts agreed that the series had taken the story in a satisfactory direction, and aside from some queerbaiting story lines in the final season, it chugged along with good reception.

Image: IMDb

Another huge motivator for producers is the nostalgia factor, which was apparently so potent that during the middle of this decade, nearly every popular 1980s cartoon received a remake. Millennials were milked this last decade, with She-Ra, DuckTales, Thundercats, and Danger Mouse all returning to screens in a matter of years.

These have generally been well received, with all of these cartoons scoring a 7.2 or above on IMDb. In the case of She-Ra, the reboot was in fact received as both respectful to the source material as well as narratively superior. It seems this time around it was trying to tell a more coherent story, rather than sell toys to eight year olds.

In my opinion, this is where a reboot really shines – when the original felt unfinished in some way. A good example here is Battlestar Galactica. The 1978 series is dated, to say the least, and it fails to fully realise the potential of its sci-fi, posthuman setting. The 2004 reboot created by Ronald D. Moore, however, takes the themes and some key elements of the original, while rounding out many existing characters.

There comes a point where a reboot feels unecessary

The show transcends many sci-fi clichés and becomes a truly beautiful military space drama, with a dash of psychological thriller and an excellent cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower to garnish an already exotic cocktail. What Moore managed is what all reboots should try to achieve. That is, a final product that is greater than its promising, if half-baked source material.

Image: IMDb

But they can’t all be good. There comes a point where a reboot feels unnecessary, either when the original product stands on its own, or is simply a poor concept at its core and is better left alone.

As discussed above, it’s common these days to monetise our childhoods by bringing back a kids’ show or two – which is fine, provided that they find a creative lead who understands the source material. They must also be confident enough to play around with the themes, expectations and shortcomings of the original.

In summary, I feel that rebooting a property is usually fine – but filmmakers need to pick their targets carefully. Too much change and audiences will feel alienated, or question why the reboot simply isn’t an entirely new property.

Where will the new Gossip Girl sit on this spectrum of quality? As someone who cringed at the melodramatic writing, I hope that the revival leans into this caricature of the gentrified New York lifestyle. With a bit of luck, it will make for a fun spin on what tried (and failed) to be genuine back in 2007 when the original aired.

Last modified: 28th November 2019

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