Turn on the TV these days and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re stuck in a time warp. From Fuller House to Dynasty, The X-Files to Twin Peaks, it’s official: telly has gone reboot crazy.
Just last week, it was revealed that the 1997 hit slasher flick I Know What You Did Last Summer is set for a remake, while serial killer drama Dexter is getting a limited series revival. A sequel is on the way for iconic 1996 horror movie The Craft, and even Chuck and Blair will be returning to our screens in the near future if Gossip Girl 2.0 goes ahead.
So why are so many beloved 1990s and 2000s classics getting a revamp, now? Are producers just clean out of new ideas? Not quite. While a few reboots are sticking to tried and tested scripts, others are branching out and revamping their storylines entirely. Take the Dexter revival: when the original series wrapped in 2013 after eight seasons, the ending (which saw the titular killer go into self-imposed exile) was widely given the thumbs-down by viewers. Tacking on a few extra episodes gives producers a second bite at the apple: “We want this to not be Dexter season nine,” showrunner Clyde Phillips has told The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s a great opportunity to write a second finale for our show.”
When a TV series, film, even a book is a hit with the public, it’s understandable that bosses want to replicate that success. Remember when Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s juggernaut bestseller, hit bookshop shelves in 2014? It sparked a wave of similar novels, from Paula Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train to The Woman in The Window by A.J. Finn. The plot lines, titles, even covers of these releases started to look disarmingly similar as publishers scrambled to fill the new demand for ‘suburban noir’. In the world of TV, Netflix eyed-up the BBC and Channel 4’s talent for a good, gritty British thriller and tried their own hand at it with The Stranger earlier this year – of course, it was a hit mere hours after its release. It’s perhaps to be expected, then, that the number of reboots and revivals has been steadily increasing – after all, if it ain’t broke…
When it comes to the 2020 reboot, however, nostalgia has a big part to play. Thanks to the pandemic, production has stalled on major series and films: Line Of Duty, James Bond: No Time To Die and hundreds more have had their release dates pushed back. In the absence of anything new to watch, most of rediscovered old favourites in lockdown, from Friends to Sex and the City.
And unsurprisingly, we liked them: familiar, comforting and easy to watch without really watching, they were the perfect background noise, a tonic to the daily influx of bad news. TV bosses have caught on to this – there’s even In The Noughties, a new, extra-nostalgic chat show on BBC Two, where Angela Scanlon interviews a succession of comedians about their favourite year from that decade. Looking back on bootcut flares, the Spice Girls and the Millennium Dome just feels so much easier than sitting in the present, with all its face masks, social distancing and wearied politicians.
In a year when many of us have gone back to basics (cutting way down on socialising and discovering the pleasure of a simple walk) it feels only natural that we’re continuing to close the loop on our entertainment habits, too. Snuggling down on the sofa with a glass of wine, a plate of macaroni cheese and an old favourite on the telly is just the kind of comfort we need right now. This year, there’s a lot to be said for knowing what you’re in for.
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