Welcome back to Stay Tuned, Vulture’s TV advice column. Each Wednesday, Margaret Lyons answers your questions about your various TV triumphs and woes. Need help? Have a theory? Want a recommendation? Submit a question! You can email firstname.lastname@example.org, leave a comment, or tweet @margeincharge with the hashtag #staytuned.
How should we feel about remakes/reboots/revivals? Twin Peaks, Heroes, X-Files, Coach, Arrested Development … I’m sort of filled with dread, honestly. —JD
This is a tough one. I’m genuinely excited for The X-Files, but against my better judgement. I was medium excited about a revived Twin Peaks — until David Lynch dropped out, which ruins the whole point of returning to Twin Peaks. I was not a Coach person, so I am a human shruggie re: Coach.
Arrested Development is sort of a different beast, since that show has already been revived, and this is more like a renewal of that revival. That said, there are easily 100 shows I’d rather see revived in some capacity before I’d ask for a second season of revived AD. Like a full 100, I think: Ally McBeal, American High, Andy Richer Controls the Universe, Beat the Geeks, Better Off Ted, Bored to Death, Brat Camp, Brooklyn Bridge, Carnivale, Chicago Hope (WITH PATINKIN), Daria, Deadwood, Dinosaurs, Dirt, Doug, Dream Job, Eli Stone, Enlightened, ER, Four Kings, Friday Night Lights, Gallery Girls, Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place, Get a Life, Ghostwriter, Gilmore Girls, Grosse Pointe, Grounded for Life, Guts, Hey Dude, Hoarders, Huge, Idiot Savants, If You Really Knew Me, Instant Star, Invasion, Jackass, Jake in Progress, Joan of Arcadia, King of the Hill, Kitchen Confidential, LA Complex, Life Unexpected, Love Monkey, Made, Magnum PI, Make It or Break It, Men in Trees, Millennium, Moesha, My So-Called Life, Northern Exposure, noTORIous, Nowhere Man, O’Grady, Once and Again, Over There, Party Down, Platinum Hit, Playmakers, Point Pleasant, Profit, Pushing Daisies, Radio Free Roscoe, Reaper, Rich Girls, Rollergirls, Salute Your Shorts, SCTV, Second Noah, Sifl and Olly, Significant Others, Singled Out, Sisters, Space Ghost, Sports Night, Square One, St. Elsewhere, Terriers, The Brendan Leonard Show, The Critic, The It Factor, The L Word, The Mickey Mouse Club, The Middleman, The Office (but only if it were about the camera crew), The Paper, The Save-Ums, The Tick, Today’s Special, Undeclared, Underemployed, Veronica Mars (AGAIN), Viva Variety, The West Wing, Wishbone, Wonder Showzen, Wonderfalls, Xena: Warrior Princess, Young Americans. And those are just the first hundred I thought of. Anyway, I’m over Arrested Development.
I share your wariness when it comes to these reincarnations, because … we’ve been burned before. Burned by plenty of shows that just started to suck, burned by reboots that degraded the spirit of what we once loved, burned by the persistent agony of simply trying to survive in a sad, mean world that turns everything into stinky garbage. Conventional wisdom, then, would tell us not to get our hopes up. But I say fuck that. What else are you supposed to do with hopes? Getting them up is what makes them hopes. If they were in the middle, they’d just be “moderately sour thoughts I expressed on the internet,” and trust, we have plenty of those.
The new end product may or may not be good, that’s true of all things. Let’s chose to walk a path that seeks joy. Not all reboots/revivals/resurrections are created equal, so here are the questions I ask while trying to foster a hopeful attitude (and please note that these apply only to TV and not to movies):
Are the original creators involved?
If the original creator — or the original driving creative voice of the show, whether or not that person was the series’ creator — is deceased or infirm, then okay. But if that person or group of people were ousted for creative or budgetary reasons, that’s a red flag. (Above, when I said I wanted Gilmore Girls and West Wing, those would obviously be with Amy Sherman-Palladino and Aaron Sorkin, respectively. Or maybe not respectively? Those two could swap shows and make all my dreams come true! Pardon me while I yank out an eyelash or two and make some wishes.)
Does the premise still resonate? Or can it be made to?
Maybe this is what doomed the 24 revival for me: I was just no longer in the market for a rogue torturer who likes to do things His Way and also AMERICA. (Was I ever in the market for that? I don’t remember.) I suppose the premise of Full House still makes sense, especially the idea that it would take at least four adults to be able to afford to live in that house in San Francisco. Arguably the most successful reboot of our time is Battlestar Galactica, and the Ron Moore version absolutely found a way to make the original show’s concept relevant in a contemporary capacity. We can’t hold everything to a BSG standard, though. It’s not fair.
Are other shows or cultural products providing similar stimulation?
I’m among the biggest Melrose Place fans in the world. I loved OG Melrose very much. But revival Melrose was a non-entity to me because there were plenty of other avenues for plenty of better soapy stories. Desperate Housewives was still on. A Heroes revival? I have plenty of superpower-driven entertainment to keep myself occupied, thank you very much, and if I want to watch Zachary Quinto being evil, I can watch the most recent season of Girls. No other show is really getting Friday Night Lights’ inspirational qualities, though, for example.
Have sequels, follow-ups or previous attempted revivals failed in significant creative ways?
This gives me pause for both Twin Peaks and The X-Files: We had a not-that-great X-Files movie in 2008. Fire Walk With Me is … not my favorite. I don’t know what would make these new attempts inherently better, other than the idea that practice makes perfect.
Do I truly, fully believe new or more or updated installments of this can bring me specific, otherwise unattainable delights?
This is the question where “yes” is what validates the whole premise of remakes at all. There’s an ER-shaped hole in my heart, and no other show — no doctor show, no Chicago-set show, no nothing — will ever fill it exactly. I know Dr. Green is gone forever, but could Carter treat someone maybe? Could I get an update on Doug and Carol? Just let me know that Keri Weaver is still kicking ass, please, oh please. All other hospital shows seem extra-phony compared to ER, even shows I love. Compare that to, say, NYPD Blue, which I also love tremendously: Other cop shows and shows about the Sadnesses are meeting my needs just fine. I am sure that another Veronica Mars movie would please me in a way no episode of iZombie can. I have watched just about every teen show the world has thrown at me, but Angela Chase is my be-all, end-all. Even a one-minute webisode about which play Mr. Katimski is directing this year would set off synapses in my brain that have not been activated in years.
I get why some people think high expectations set shows up for failure, but I’m just not a low-expectations person. Dismissiveness is not an insurance policy on something sucking — assuming something will be bad and then having those expectations met doesn’t somehow make that thing better, it just makes you less happy for all those months where your imagination could have enchanted you. Once a show is bad, sure, let’s all take a hundred million dumps on it and never look back. But until then, let’s live in a world of TV possibility.