Rose-tinted Reboots: Television Remakes and Nostalgia
by Hannah Green — Allegheny College
March 17, 2017 – 21:46
FX Networks CEO John Landgraf terms the staggering number of scripted series (over 400 programs available via broadcast, cable, and online services in 2015 alone) within today’s television scene as ‘peak tv’. An endless stream of original television pervades our screens, pushing the industry to pursue counter-intuitive strategies that will captivate audiences. Rather than responding to the hunger for new content, the industry is focusing on re-engaging fans of discontinued series by "rebooting” past programs. This trend appeals to viewers’ sense of nostalgia, garnering revivals instant interest and name recognition.
When a beloved series jumps back into the entertainment cycle, it is expected to uphold the spirit of its forerunner. In this promotional clip for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel take us back to the early 2000s when their fast paced banter and non-stop pop culture references defined a new model for mother-daughter relationships. Their characters, Lorelai and Rory, offer us a dose of the past that we remember as innocent and simplistic, illuminated through lighthearted conversation from the comforts of their kitchen. However, while this revival, among others, exude a nostalgia that appeals to viewers dissatisfied with today’s sociopolitical and economic climate, reboots still strive to be relevant within contemporary culture. While Lorelai and Rory uphold the traditional structure of the series, they simultaneously claim status within the present as they namedrop Amy Schumer and John Oliver. Similarly, Fuller House, another reboot, celebrates its carefree past, reanimating Michelle Tanner’s famous catchphrase, “you got it dude!”, while also critiquing a character who seems “stuck” in the 90s.
Television makes it easy for us to revisit the past with little demand of our imaginations, but does not allow us to entirely escape our present world. What does our appetite for old content made new suggest about how we cope with a present that is broader, more complicated and threatening than the past we remember? I propose that rebooted series satisfy our yearning for a romanticized past, while ensuring that we stay grounded in a contemporary media-saturated world that requires our constant attention and engagement.