Hollywood Needs to Stop Making Sitcom Reboots

Hollywood Needs to Stop Making Sitcom Reboots

Paul Hunter
February 08 2023 - 09:52am

With the advent of streaming came a host of sitcom reboots ready to ride off of the coattails of their former successes. Hollywood took some of the most successful series of the 90s, brought back as many cast members as they could find, and set about reviving the old magic. Many of these series seemed to be hits. They've been renewed several times, and they've found themselves at the top of the list for their respective networks. But those networks don't necessarily set a high bar. They're not the titans that everyone is tuning into. Some shows have seen a drastic decline in viewership, and they've been getting slaughtered on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB. The audience has made it clear that they're not impressed, and for good reason.

Sitcom reboots come with unique challenges that new shows don't often face. They have to hold up on their own and find a way to reach the public, and they have to provide something new to the conversation while also playing off of the old nostalgia. That's not always possible. They also reinforce existential issues within the entertainment industry--problems that need to be addressed. It's time to do away with these monstrosities and move on. Let's take a look at three reboots, 'The Conners,' 'That '90s Show,' and 'Fuller House,' and use them to examine why they need to go the way of the dinosaur.

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Cultural Relevance

It might sound cheap, but in order for fiction to succeed, it has to be appealing. This is often done by targeting a specific demographic and mimicking their tastes, or it could mean analyzing the culture. Good writers are forward-thinkers. They know what people want, even before people realize they want it. This is all time-sensitive. The culture in the 80s and 90s was very different. This is why sitcom reboots have a hard time staying relevant. Their source material was written to appeal to people decades ago. 

'Fuller House' is an amazing example of this. 'Full House' was based on a set of traditional values that had already been dying out by the time the series premiered. 'Fuller House' didn't revise anything. Those involved in the series were driven solely by nostalgia. They missed that time in their lives, and they wanted to relive it. That made it difficult for them to identify with modern audiences. 

'That '90s Show' is another great example of this. During the late 90s and early 2000s when the original series aired, they wanted to push the envelope. That's one of the reasons why they included weed use. It was very controversial with the networks. They weren't allowed to show characters actually smoking. They never referred to weed by name. Instead, it was all implied. They whipped out a fog machine and sat the characters down in a circle. That didn't work for 'That '90s Show.' Today weed is legal in many areas. Many people prefer it to alcohol. It's not controversial or edgy. There's nothing 'That '90s Show' could say that hasn't been done a thousand times before. It also relies heavily on nostalgia. Many of the jokes and plot points are a throwback to the old series. That makes it difficult for them to appeal to a new fanbase. People who never watched the old series will have trouble identifying with the new one.


Hollywood has a problem with logistics. A lot of different factors have to come together to make a production feasible. This isn't always possible with reboots, especially when it comes to actors. Life happens. They move on with their lives. They pick up different gigs or quit acting altogether. Sometimes showrunners have to take shortcuts to make up for those issues, and sometimes those shortcuts dilute the magic of the series. That was a huge problem with 'Fuller House.' In the original, the twins Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson both played the baby of the family, Michelle. People tuned in to see her adorable antics. Everything else took a backseat. But the girls were very young when it aired. They didn't have the same nostalgic experience that drove the other cast members to take part in the series. When it came time to make a reboot, they declined to join in. That meant 'Fuller House' would have to be made without the star. 

The 'Roseanne' reboot had a similar problem. She is notoriously difficult to work with, but she is hilarious. She could have you bowling over in an instant. She was originally a part of the reboot, which was simply labeled as the tenth season of the original series. But shortly after it premiered she tweeted an odd, semi-coherent remark equating an African American political figure with an ape. She explained that she had blacked out on Ambien, which was obviously true. But there was no way that ABC could continue to employ her after the backlash.  So the series was rebranded as 'The Conners,' and they were forced to continue without the comedic effect she brought to the table. It wasn't the same.

Roseanne (ABC) Official Trailer HD - Roseanne Season 10 Trailer

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A Bad Medium

Sitcoms were cheap to make. Characters rarely went outside. Instead, they stuck to the same sets day in and day out. When studios did change things up, they recycled old material. They didn't have to build anything. They had a giant cache of props that they could simply pull out of a warehouse. That's why networks loved them. Fans loved them because they appealed to the entire household. Everyone had someone they could identify with. There were kids, adults, grandparents, and parents, all acting out relatable issues.

Everyone would eat dinner as a family, and then they'd move to the living room, where they'd all crowd around the only screen available to them. Things have changed quite a bit since then. Now everyone has multiple screens. They don't have to share the TV. They can look at their phones, use their tablet, or sit at their computer, and they're not confined to half a dozen channels. They can find something that fits their personal tastes--something realistic and exciting--rather than relying on a medium that's been around for a century. 

Sitcoms are obsolete. Nobody watches them anymore. They can't pull in new audience members, because modern fans have no desire to watch them. These shows are going to die. Networks will stop making them and start to focus on other genres. This trend started a long time ago, and it's going to get worse.

Courtesy of ABC

Move Over

Streaming has highlighted a serious issue within the entertainment industry, and it's somewhat depressing. The bigwigs don't want to take risks. They want to ensure that they get a return on their investment, and the best way to do that is to expand on franchises with a proven track record of sales. That's why most of what we watch is either an adaptation or a reboot. Original works of art are untested. Nobody knows how they will be received. So we're rehashing the same old material instead of adding something new and meaningful to the social discourse. That's not how art is supposed to work. 

We're also sticking with reliable players. If we put Tim Burton or James Cameron's name on something, people will flock to see it. It's a sales gimmick, and it's also a gatekeeping tactic. It's very difficult to break into the industry. There are amazing artists, true geniuses, who can't even get the time of day because people are more willing to buy into something familiar. 

We need to move past this pattern and start treating film like an art form instead of a commodity. If we don't, the powers that be are going to focus on profits--cheap sitcoms and bad reality shows. Many executives are already moving in this direction. That can't happen. Say no to sitcom reboots. Make sure quality content gets the attention it deserves.

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