Well, as we’ve just seen 2021 off with a bang, from the point of view of TV series, this year could be best described as the year of the revival, reheats and returns, with a headcount of more than 15 hit series showrunners have resurrected in the past twelve months.
Meanwhile, international titles made an equally impressive showing with the Friends reunion, a new season of Dexter, the reboot of The Wonder Years, a now fully-grown adult version of Punky Brewster, Gossip Girl spin off and even a return of Sex And The City with a name change and one resounding hooky, and that’s just to mention some of the more prominent ones.
However, the strategy of banking on hit show revivals doesn’t always work and die-hard fans tend to adopt a handle-with-care and approach with caution attitude, but then, as Pablo Neruda said, “We, of that time, are no longer the same” and that’s why we don’t usually hang around.
Thus, the revival of Punky Brewster was canceled after only one season, a similar fate suffered by Beverly Hills 90210, which despite the original marking an entire generation, the remake didn’t last a year, as was the case with the resurrected version of Melrose Place and there has even been less chatter around The Fresh Prince of Bel Air reunion.
But why is it so hard to repeat the brilliance from yesteryear? Would we be all better off if they’d just stop resuscitating hit shows from the past? Are there any comebacks worth watching? The answer is a resounding yes, so with that, let’s have a look at which titles have hit and which have missed:
It’s only interesting if it still has something (fresh and new) to say
The announcement of another series’ return generally attracts more attention than a new title release nobody has ever heard of as we’re already familiar with the story and the fond memories of having enjoyed it in the past, how we were moved by the series and how it even became part of our sense of humor, awakening a level of nostalgia that no freshly cut premiere could ever compete with.
As such, these resurrections are a safe bet to captivate the interest and curiosity of an already solid fan base, but if you want to hang onto that, you’d better have something fresh and new to bring to the table, while conserving the original essence. That’s when you can strike that perfect balance between audiences rediscovering past glories while being wooed by the something novel that contributes a little magic in the present.
This is exactly what Carrie, Miranda and Charlotte have done in the Sex and the City revival, taking fans along with them to that audience ‘refuge’, only with a whole new set of concerns, life experiences and taboos to break at this new stage of their lives. In this sense, And Just Like That definitely makes sense.
Likewise, The Boarding School: Las Cumbres maintains that aura of mystery that dazzled the entire country in 2007 while scaring other generations looking to identify with unconventional stories, and the same trail Bel-Air, the title of the revival, apparently will also follow as it casts comedy aside to experiment with the trials and tribulations of being a black male in modern-day United States.
The reboot of The Wonder Years is another success story that avoids the temptation to seek refuge in the characters, and instead does so with the moment in which they were alive, allowing fans to revisit that world they knew and loved, only from a different perspective. Could this then be the more enriching formula for the revival’s success?
You should never go back to that place where you were once happy
The point is that it’s against all odds that what made us fall head over heels so many years ago will hold the same magic today as our viewing habits have matured over time and we now demand a different kind of narrative and are drawn to other stories. We are no longer surprised by what surprised us before, and there’s nothing as sure to spark disinterest as predictability.
Consequently, the biggest faux pas series revivals make is offering the same content in a somewhat altered container. Full House might have been considered innovative back in the 80’s, as the story and situations were unique back then, but what fresh material can Fuller House bring to the table today?
Punky Brewster didn’t get it right either by using the same name for a sequel that bears no relation to the abandoned girl who lived with her dog and a grandfather who adopted her. Recovering the same actress almost 30 years older just wasn’t sufficient ‘refuge’ for fans who dreamed of returning to that unforgettable multicolored tree house.
Not even Dexter managed to hit the target returning to a new environment with the same old stories because the formula has already passed its sell-by date, something Wentworth Miller was well aware of when he turned down the offer to appear in the reboot of Prison Break, just like Michel Brown with Pasión de Gavilanes (although rumor has it that he’s changed his mind).
Sabina once said, “you should go back to that place where you were once happy” and the creators of Friends were well aware of that, opting instead for a reunion over a fresh batch of episodes. Good choice, because time goes by, and no one wants to imagine the real future of Chandler, Monica, Rachel, Ross, Phoebe and Joey … much less beyond the four walls of that apartment, far from their refuge, and ours.
Paula Hergar discusses the return of iconic shows well-worth watching, and some that you might just give a miss.