The new Hulu comedy Reboot centers around a scenario that’s become very familiar in recent years: What if a long-canceled TV show was revived with the original cast, and updated for a modern era? As star Johnny Knoxville says, there can be a cynical motivation to it: “The executives think, oh, it’s safer than doing something new, which, you know, puts a lot of writers out of work.”
“There’s a lot of new material out there,” his co-star Judy Greer agrees. “We can’t just think that there’s nothing left, that there are no new ideas.”
“But thank God for other reboots, because we wouldn’t be talking to you today if there weren’t,” Knoxville says.
Reboot in essence is a new idea about old ideas, but one that comes from a very sincere place. “I hope this is not a cynical view of Hollywood. I don’t want this to be a cynical show. I really want it to be an upbeat, fun show about our business,” creator Steven Levitan tells Consequence.
Levitan, who previously created Just Shoot Me and Modern Family, knows a lot about the sitcom world, so for Reboot he created the multi-camera network comedy Step Right Up, about a blended family played by actors Clay Barber (Knoxville), Bree Marie Jensen (Greer), Reed Sterling (Keegan-Michael Key), and Zack Jackson (Calum Worthy).
Years later, everyone from the original cast is at a point in their careers where they’re open to joining a revival of the series, especially after they read the new script by young writer Hannah (Rachel Bloom), who’s bringing a darker edge to the material — much to the dismay of original series creator Gordon (Paul Reiser).
In speaking with Knoxville and Greer (whose full interview you can watch here) as well as Levitan, Worthy, Bloom, Reiser, and Krista Marie Yu (who plays plucky young Hulu executive Elaine Kim), Consequence got some in-depth insight into not just the show, but what it’s attempting to say about this industry.
Says Levitan, “I’m not so much making an anti-reboot statement — that, you know, TV has lost all of its originality and this is what it’s relegated to — because I think there can be a lot of wonderful work done in the guise of a reboot. And if there’s a legitimate reason to do one, because you’re gonna break new creative ground, I’m cool with that.”
Prior to working on Reboot, a few cast members already had direct engagement with revivals, though Greer says that when Arrested Development came back for a fourth season on Netflix in 2013, it didn’t really compare to the situation faced by the Step Right Up cast. “Arrested Development is special,” she laughs.
Reiser, meanwhile, reunited with his Mad About You costar Helen Hunt in 2019 for 12 new episodes of Mad About You, which originally ended in 1999. Reiser tells Consequence that he and co-star Hunt had spent years saying they had no interest in doing a revival of the series “not because we didn’t love it, but because we did love it. We loved how we finished it. We did every episode we wanted to do, we covered every story. We wrapped things up in a beautiful one-hour that not only wrapped things up, but told the future. We did that deliberately so we would never be tempted to come back.”
But when they landed on the angle of exploring Paul and Jamie’s relationship with their now-grown daughter, Reiser says the potential for stories was there: “The only thing that convinced us that it would be exciting and makes sense to do was because the story we could write had some substance.”
That was a unified theme in conversations with the cast: The idea that a reboot or revival’s value is driven by whether it has something new to say in relation to the original version. “I think reboots have the potential of being very special, bringing people together to be nostalgic and to maybe revisit a story where there’s more story to be told,” Worthy says. “I do think there needs to be a purpose behind it. I think it’s important for there to be a reason greater than just IP. I think there needs to be a story that needs to be told as well.”