fb-pixel Skip to main content
ASK MATTHEW

Why I don’t give TV reboots and revivals a second thought

Michael C. Hall will return as serial killer Dexter Morgan when Showtime brings the series back for a limited run in 2021, eight years after its original finale.
Michael C. Hall will return as serial killer Dexter Morgan when Showtime brings the series back for a limited run in 2021, eight years after its original finale.Randy Tepper/Showtime via AP/file

Q. I saw your piece ranting against the revival of “Sex and the City.” Why the angst? Wait until it’s out, then decide if it deserves praise or not.

WAIT AND SEE

A. The reboot and revival craze — and it is a craze, judging from the number of previously known titles that make their way back into the culture every year — drives me a little crazy. I think of it as systemic reflux. It’s fueled by the corporate desire to deploy properties that audiences have already heard of, like the soon-to-return “Dexter” and “Gossip Girl.” It’s easier for networks and producers to promote a familiar name to potential TV viewers than to introduce a new one into the TV conversation, especially in this overcrowded market. So they go looking for any recognizable properties, good or not, to bring back to life in order to stoke curiosity and nostalgia — and maybe they shy away from original shows in the process. Brand names or bust.

From left: Joe Regalbuto as Frank Fontana, Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown, and Faith Ford as Corky Sherwood in the 2018 revival of "Murphy Brown."
From left: Joe Regalbuto as Frank Fontana, Candice Bergen as Murphy Brown, and Faith Ford as Corky Sherwood in the 2018 revival of "Murphy Brown."Warner Bros.Entertainment Inc

And so the many, many reboots and revivals are spurred ahead by marketing, and not by more organic inspirations and enthusiasms. Yes, most TV writers and producers of original shows are thinking about the market, but I’d like to believe that their spark is also a creative one, that there is a story they want to tell. Like I said in the “Sex and the City” article on Sunday, we don’t need to know what all of our TV “friends” are doing at every single stage of their lives. Have we really needed to pick up with the folks on “Mad About You” and “Murphy Brown”? Whatever happened to endings? Did we put an end to endings, which are often the most important part of a story structure (see: “Six Feet Under”)?

Advertisement



So I greet these “re” shows with a lot of skepticism, for sure. I’m not excited when I see another one coming down the pike, especially when, as in the cases of both “Sex and the City” and “Dexter,” the show had run out of steam before it was canceled.

Advertisement



Lisa Kudrow's "The Comeback" is the rare example of a show whose revival didn't taint its legacy.
Lisa Kudrow's "The Comeback" is the rare example of a show whose revival didn't taint its legacy.John P. Johnson/HBO

You are correct; I tend to rant on the subject. That said, I do indeed keep my mind open when I sit down to watch one of them. I have been pleasantly surprised on occasion — most notably with HBO’s “The Comeback,” Lisa Kudrow’s darkly comic take on TV fame and reality shows. It was canceled in 2005, since so few were watching. It’s rough going at times, as it takes no prisoners in service of its Hollywood satire, and it failed to develop an immediate following. But its reputation as a hidden gem grew and grew, and HBO brought it back for a second round in 2014 that was very good. Fortunately, in this case, the revival season did not harm the show’s legacy.


Matthew Gilbert can be reached at matthew.gilbert@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @MatthewGilbert.