Many have dubbed this period in television history the “Reboot Era,” a time in which creators are reluctant to produce new shows, and instead revive old favorites in an effort to recapture an established fanbase: But really, are reboots never as good as the original? It appears that the majority of fans are inclined to believe so. Giving new life to a series that ended many years ago presents a lot of challenges, some of which may affect the quality of the project.
One of the hurdles television creators usually face in revisiting a popular classic is when a portion of the original cast declines the invitation to join the reboot. Once many years pass since the ending of the initial show, it becomes more and more difficult to convince all its actors to reprise their original roles, as it is likely that they have found other work since then. This often results in reboots missing at least one character from their source material, leaving the feeling that something is missing.
One example of this occurrence is the recent revival of the iconic “Sex and the City,” called “And Just Like That,” in which Kim Cattrall did not reprise the role of Samantha Jones — likely due to differences between her and her costars. The wealthy, sex-positive PR agent enriched the original show with her striking sense of humor and ability to teach women to see their personal lives in a new light. Many fans believed the “Sex and the City” universe was simply not the same without Samantha, which was a key factor in the revival’s overall negative reception.
However, another recent television reboot has proven that a show can still retain its magic without every member of the original cast. Nickelodeon’s sitcom “iCarly,” popular among Gen-Z viewers who grew up watching the original, received a reboot on the Paramount+ streaming network under the same name.
Notably, Jennette McCurdy has not returned to portray Sam Puckett, the violent, yet lovable social media breakout star. Upon receiving the news of the reboot and the absence of McCurdy, fans were worried that the modern version of the show would fail without the comic relief that Sam brought to the original.
However, the reboot’s reception was overwhelmingly positive, as fans appreciated how the writers were able to create a new version of the original show’s universe that matured along with its fans into something that was no longer a show for children.
On the contrary, “And Just Like That” introduced radical changes to the original show’s world beyond the absence of Samantha. The reboot ended long-time romantic relationships and featured the characters making questionable decisions that contradicted their originally established values.
Although missing characters seems to be a common problem for TV reboots, it appears that success is truly contingent upon how well the show is written, and whether or not the writers are able to age the remaining characters in a satisfying and thought-provoking way.
Embrace the New… Or Not
Another common quality of TV reboots that isn’t always welcomed by original fans is the arrival of new characters, sometimes in an attempt to fill the void left by the absence of certain familiar faces. In this situation, an enormous challenge is placed on the writers, as they are tasked with creating likable new characters that not only fit in with the rest of the cast, but are able to succeed in carrying the existing message of the show.
When implemented successfully, new characters can add tremendous value to the reboot by expanding its world and creating opportunities for interesting storylines. However, when these new additions change too much about the show’s existing universe, it is often a recipe for fandom disapproval.
“And Just Like That” welcomed a long list of new characters to its roster. Some of these were popular among the “Sex and the City” fan community, due to their ability to carry the direction of the original show, such as Seema Patel and Lisa Todd Wexley. However, one new character seemed to greatly alter the routine established in the original, and was thus criticized by fans.
Che Diaz debuted as a successful podcast host and social media mogul. Carrie Bradshaw, the fashionable yet impulsive protagonist of the series, puts her writing career on hold sometime before the reboot and appears as a regular guest on Diaz’s podcast. Fans were less than excited to see the acclaimed columnist venturing away from her own publication, which was a fundamental part of the original show, only to act as a costar for a character that had not yet been developed.
Furthermore, Diaz is also seen as the new love interest of Miranda Hobbes. To the shock of long-time fans, the caring and level-headed lawyer decides she is no longer satisfied with her marriage to Steve Brady. Viewers were disheartened by this development, as they fell in love with the relationship between Hobbes and Brady in the original.
The couple’s love story touched many people’s hearts. Their storyline had its ups and downs, but finally ended in a beautiful marriage. To see that this had all been for nothing was a difficult pill to swallow, and Che Diaz’s relationship to this event cemented their poor reception.
However, this is not to say that new characters in TV reboots cannot be a positive addition to the project. The “iCarly” reboot introduced fans to Harper Bettencourt, the trendy and vivacious roommate of protagonist Carly Shay. Upon learning of the addition to the cast, fans were skeptical that Bettencourt was added to the show’s roster simply to replace the missing Sam Pucket.
However, this new best friend to Carly proved herself to be an entirely unique character, and while she served the same purpose Sam did in providing comic relief, she did so in her own way and established a lovable sense of humor. In this case, the writers succeeded in implementing a new character because they were able to channel the routine of the original even with a different cast.
To Reboot or Not to Reboot
Although many TV viewers have developed an anti-reboot position, this special brand of programming can still be successful despite the challenges that it presents. The roadblock of uninterested original cast members certainly has the potential to alter the show’s universe, but the revival can still be received well if the remaining characters are fleshed out in a meaningful manner. Furthermore, the likely addition of brand new characters may have this same effect, but can be a worthy development if the creators manage to implement them in a way that advances the established rhythm of the original, rather than changing it.
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