The new show on Disney Plus pokes fun at sitcoms and at what suckers we are for nostalgia
When the insufferable Fuller House came out on Netflix, people tended to remember the original series, Full House, as better than it really was. It’s fair enough to like a show because it takes you back to a certain time or situation in your life, but that’s why terms like ‘guilty pleasure’ were invented – to save you from trying to defend the indefensible as the years go by. Full House was considered overly wholesome, old-fashioned and just plain bad even back when it was screened in the late 80s, it’s just that we tend to look at the programmes we grew up with through rose-tinted glasses. Reboot, released a few weeks ago on Disney Plus, and with much less fanfare than it deserves, feeds on this collective craze for nostalgia and uses it as fodder for its caustic humor.
Its protagonists are a group of actresses and actors who, in their day, were extremely popular thanks to one of those family sitcoms where you hear applause for things as mundane as a character entering a dining room. This fictional series ended up being canceled due to its cast’s delusions of grandeur, but now, with reboot fever rampant in streaming services, the same network wants to revamp it along with the original cast members. The latter agree to reprise their roles amid promises the show will be given a modern, cynical edge. But once on set, they find it’s back to its classic cheesy sitcom formula and, furthermore, their old rivalries start to resurface, threatening to disrupt the shoot. A lot.
It’s true Reboot has some (just a few) moments in which it comes perilously close to being condescending and some of its put-down humor verges on being the very thing it aims to lampoon. But it’s also true that, on the whole, it manages to dodge the pitfalls and instead fire a poison dart at the obsession with watching the same old shows again and again. One area where it really shines is with its portrayal of the world of showbiz, that deeply conservative microcosm that glorifies mediocrity and is largely unable to evolve at the same pace as the world it purports to show. In this sense, the scenes in the writers’ room really nail it, with dialogues that perfectly illustrate the generation gap there and accompanying clash in comedy tastes in a genre that’s always being redefined. Indeed, that’s where a fabulous moment occurs in which an unintentional pratfall leads to all the writers, young and old, realizing that when comedy is really good, its appeal is universal.
Reboot‘s other big forte is its ensemble cast. All the performers make the most of the sitcom behind the sitcom format (Paul Reiser and Rachel Bloom are priceless) and are masters of the mechanisms of metalanguage, in some cases because they themselves have a dark past and others because they have long dedicated themselves to pushing the envelope of mainstream comedy. Among those deserving a special mention is Johnny Knoxville, who is on point each and every time he appears on screen thanks to his fine sense of self-parody. The series covers a bit of everything, from the twilight of child actors to the reconciliation of public and private lives, and even the bitter wars between managers. But most importantly, it actually makes you laugh. It wouldn’t be the first time a behind-the-scenes series fell victim to its pretensions or lack of ingenuity. Happily that’s not the case with Reboot, which manages to be very funny without sacrificing its creative spirit.