The past few years has brought ‘90s and 2000s nostalgia to its near breaking point, with arguably too many TV reboots flooding streaming services, even exhausting us die-hards with the increasingly banal format. This year alone will see the reboots of Gossip Girl, Sex and the City, Dexter and Daria. Talk about reboot burnout.
Some of these shows have sought to rectify the painfully basic casts and plots of the originals by incorporating aspects that make what we’re watching on screen look more like our everyday lives: more people of colour and queer people. (Actors with disabilities is a frontier which reboot culture is yet to touch.) But as much as audiences crave diversity in their pop culture, divergent reboots are often met with disdain, especially from their original fanbase. Who can forget the shit show surrounding Charmed 2.0, tensions which have been stoked by the original actresses on social media? And while the Party of Five remake drew positive reviews from critics, it was cancelled after one season early last year. Perhaps gun shy from the backlash the aforementioned reboots hath wrought, some of them have doubled down on the basic appeal (read: whiteness) of the originals.
It’s not often that TV reboots engage in just the right amount of nostalgia, self-awareness and “wokeness,” but when they do, it’s magic. Here, we rank the recent influx of reboots from worst to best using a subjective methodology that gives this careful balance top marks.
While most other reboots have sought to diversify their mostly white originals, Roseanne doubled down on this, with titular star Roseanne Barr’s controversial Twitter takes well known before the redebut of the show in 2018. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, a former advisor to President Barack Obama and Barr was swiftly removed from the show that bore her name. Rebooted for a second time in the same year, The Connors is still airing, however not at the ratings highs that ABC courted with the initial reboot.
The Hills: New Beginnings
The 2018 reboot of the uber popular 2000s reality show attempted to repeat its winning formula without its star, Lauren Conrad, who declined involvement. With many of us eager for a dose of early aughts nostalgia and to see Mischa Barton and Pamela Anderson cameo-ing, The Hills: New Beginnings didn’t seem totally awful at the start. A season in, though, it was pretty clear that new beginnings weren’t nearly as compelling as old endings.
Upon first watch, I enjoyed this woke reboot of the 1996 classic. But writer Jude Ellison Sady Doyle made an important point that in trying to be inclusive and performatively woke, all the fun was sucked out of the product, which is an issue that has befell many reboots that are seeking to revive beloved stories for modern audiences.
*The film landed on streaming services in the wake of the pandemic, which is why The Craft made this list of TV reboots.
I think I’m the lone proponent of the Charmed reboot, extolling its virtues while fans of the original (of which I was a massive one) pile on on social media. It’s hard to parse the entertainment value of the reboot which, like the original, follows Latina sisters who discover they’re witches after the death of their mother with my reflexive response to the aforementioned trolls, spurred on by the original cast’s vocal dissatisfaction with the revival.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
This dark version started off really strong on Netflix, but as the seasons progressed my interest in it waned, so much so that I decided to forego the final installment which dropped on New Years Eve 2020. The reboot suffered from Netflix bloat and questionable motivations from its heroine and the characters that surrounded her. Judging by the response, or lack thereof, on social media to the last season, many early fans felt the same…
The second Beverly Hills, 90210 reboot (the first was in 2008 and focused on a new crop of privileged California teens, with Shannon Doherty and Jenni Garth making short-lived cameos in the first season) flew under the radar which is no more evident than in its cancellation after six episodes. But it swung big, realizing that most modern viewers have had enough of the same tired actors embarrassingly reviving their iconic roles in a desperate bid to stay relevant. Instead, BH90210 played on this, having the original actors (sans the late Luke Perry, who died just before shooting on the series started) portray meta versions of themselves trying to resuscitate their failing careers. It also touched on themes of women’s work, relevance and nostalgia, which made for a show that was better than it had any right to be.
Saved by the Bell
The most recent reboot of the bunch, Saved by the Bell learned from its predecessors, melding just the right amount of nostalgia, wokeness and wholesomeness to make for an enjoyable watch. The new new class, as it were, are good, especially the “villains” Mac Morris, son of Zac, and Lexi Haddad-DeFabrizio, played by trans actress Josi Totah. Elizabeth Berkley Lauren and Mario Lopez return as Jessi Spano and AC Slater, respectively, and imbue their roles with a winking nod to the limits placed on them the first time around while being thoroughly fun to watch.
The Baby-Sitters Club
Another example of a reboot that balanced the nostalgia of the original, in all its forms (books, movie, 1990s HBO series), with expectations of modern viewers. Though it’s a show about and largely for tweens, it treats both its younger viewers and fans of previous incarnations with respect which makes for an enjoyable and wholesome product.