The easiest way to get a television programme commissioned these days is to spend billions on physics research that will enable you to travel to the past, have a hit show there, return to the present and offer to remake it. Nobody wants new things. There is enough stuff. So, this week I’m considering some reboots, remakes and do-overs, some of which are actually happening.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the story of a teenage girl who fought vampires, but it was also a Trojan horse for feminism, pop culture critiques and quick-witted screwball comedy. It was, furthermore, the place where mainstream television first trialled season-long story arcs at a time when The Sopranos was but a twinkle in HBO's moneyed eye.
Few people watched TV drama in the 1990s anticipating pleasure. Thus, Buffy, like most good TV back then, was surprisingly good. In this era of hyped-up prestige television where every show features a brooding alcoholic anti-hero soliloquising about evil (see also – newspaper columnists), TV is more often disappointingly bad. So the news that Joss Whedon is planning a reboot is worrying. There's hope that Whedon is going to avoid retreading the same steps by telling a different Slayer story with a black lead and with Monica Owusa-Breen as a showrunner . . . so I find I'm cautiously hopeful. Nonetheless, I and the editor of the Skibbereen Eagle have my eye on you, Mr Whedon.
The West Wing
In the 1990s The West Wing was the favourite television programme of people who didn't own televisions and whose hobby was not owning televisions. "Amazing!" they said when they first spied the show through a neighbour's net curtains. "In this 'talkie' no one is falling on their bum or winning a washer-dryer, therefore this is the BEST television programme and I must write a column about it, probably with a quill."
The West Wing was about a fantasy liberal president who knew big words and looked like Martin Sheen, and it largely coincided with an actual president who was trialling stupidity as an ideology and looked like he'd just landed through a man-shaped hole in the White House roof. It was also about "The Deep State" and featured long purgatorial sequences in which attractive civil servants strode along corridors being intelligent and smug in long sentences, much like we do here in The Irish Times, all the while trying to put one over on that unreconstructed schmuck, "the common man", also much like we do here in The Irish Times.
What were Belding's hopes and dreams? Was there room in his life for love? Did he ever worry that as a balding man his name sounded a bit like 'balding'?
Yes, not to blow all my hot takes in one article, but The West Wing is probably why Trump happened. "Hey," said one racist Trump staffer. "What if we stopped walking and talking endlessly around these corridors and just stood silently and broke everything?"
Now there's talk, from creator Aaron Sorkin himself, of a West Wing sequel in which fictional liberals will be even more loquacious and the corridors even longer and the self-righteousness even more arousing. I can't wait to watch it on my neighbours' televisions from their gardens in the dark.
The Real World, Washington
A reboot of the groundbreaking fly-on-the-wall MTV show, now relocated to the White House, where wacky overconfident twenty somethings are given control of several government departments with hilarious/terrifying results. It's a little too "real" nowadays, to be honest.
Principal Belding always seemed like the secret lead character of teen "comedy" Saved by the Bell (hence the pun in his name that I've only just noticed). Despite being treated like a one-dimensional figure of fun, I would lie awake wondering what was going on for Michael Belding beyond the self-involved melodramas of cocky teens Zack and Screech, and the other four characters I also think of as being called "Zack". What were Belding's hopes and dreams? Was there room in his life for love? Did he ever worry that as a balding man his name sounded a bit like "balding"? Did he go to downtown poetry slams with the poems he wrote? Did he, years after graduation, drive to the real estate office where smug, ungrateful Zack now works and sit at his steering wheel brooding, a hip flask in his hand, his thoughts turning darkly to the black plastic bags and rope in the boot? Did he play competitive board games? That could also be fun. Anyway, I think he's a rich character who was underexplored.
Freaks and Geeks
Judd Apatow and Paul Feig's Freaks and Geeks launched the careers of James Franco and Seth Rogan, so any relaunch would begin with a public apology and a flogging, but a sequel to Freaks and Geeks is nonetheless necessary. It pioneered a sweetly realistic depiction of school-going 1980s nerds (the geeks) and stoners (the freaks), in a televisual world previously filled with melodramatic overconfident teen hunks (see: Saved by the Bell). It was shamefully cancelled in its first season but it was loved by me and I will never stop going on about it. Never. Not until justice is done and we get 60 new episodes and it's all that James Franco is allowed to do.
Bosco, but for adults
The problem with beloved vintage children's TV is that children nowadays do not have the necessary amount of nostalgia or booze flooding their brains to appreciate how cool my generation were as youngsters. Therefore, when remaking children's programmes it's best to just aim at the original audience of ex-babies (adults) and bypass our ungrateful infant replacements with their fidget spinners and their Paw Patrols and the weird soft spots on their heads.
In this version, Bosco, a ginger-haired, property-owning gaelgoir with an uafasach temper, much like yourself, has mellowed into gentle midlife disappointment, much like yourself. "Let's see what's through the Magic Door!" reboot Bosco might declare, before sighing, "Yes, it's the bottle factory again, because that's where I work as a regional marketing assistant. I should really stop calling this 'the magic door'. It's just a door. There's no such thing as magic." At which point we would all take a drink from our sippy cups.
The hugely popular 1990s sitcom is nonetheless now considered "problematic" by "SJWs" like myself (this is a term for cool, tough people that means "So John Wayne!"). It seems strange now how Friends often got laughs from the Jittery Man's casual homophobia and the Dinosaur Boy's creepy controlling attitude to the Haircut Woman (these are the reboot names for Chandler, Ross and Rachel), while somehow overlooking the fact that lots of people of colour actually live in New York. A remake with the original cast would, necessarily, skew towards something more disturbing than the original and would be renamed, simply, "Whites".
You, the reboot
This desire to remake, reboot and revive old TV properties says a lot about how tired we all are. Is the culture not over already? Haven’t we done enough? I know! There’s a solution to this. Have you ever considered casting a younger actor for the role of you? I hesitate to bring it up, but you’re not testing well with the focus groups (your children) and there’s this brooding young actor who is basically you with a sleeve-tattoo, backwards baseball cap and more openminded opinions on the new Drake single. So we’re thinking of recasting, then taking your name and adding “2000” at the end (to indicate that we’re up-to-the-minute and “modern”). What do you think? You don’t care and you just want to lie down? Me too! I knew you’d understand.