Reboot Season 1 Review – ‘Step Right Up’ for some saccharine silliness

Season 1

Episode Guide

Step Right Up -| Review Score – 2.5/5
New Girl -| Review Score – 3/5
Growing Pains -| Review Score – 3/5
Girlfriends -| Review Score – 3.5/5
What We Do in the Shadows -| Review Score – 2/5
Bewitched -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Baskets -| Review Score – 2/5
Who’s the Boss -| Review Score – 3.5/5


Modern Family creator Steven Levitan’s new sitcom Reboot is much about generational divides, and what better framework to examine this theme than a remake of an old show for a modern audience? Gordon (Paul Reiser) and Hannah (Rachel Bloom) are a father-daughter duo attempting to remake Gordon’s early 2000s sitcom Step Right Up. They manage to get the entirety of the original cast on board, including old flames Reed (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bree (Judy Greer). But due to their complicated past as much as their generational differences, Hannah and Gordon struggle to make a show that can successfully blend their own unique styles.

As Reboot is quick to poke fun of, the TV industry is currently rife with remakes and sequels. Fuller House, Saved by the Bell, iCarly, Gilmore Girls, Gossip Girl. And these are just a few the show lists itself. Reboot sets itself up uniquely as a satire of these kinds of series. Scenes of the Step Right Up writers’ room offer tongue-in-cheek portrayals of what goes on behind the scenes in the makings of these shows: the clashing of generational voices.

And yet, rather than seeing this as clever exaggeration, the more I watched of Reboot, the more I envisioned the writers’ room looking just like it does in the show: harried and ridiculous. Because Levitan’s show falls into the pit traps it seems to be critiquing.

When Hannah pitches a spin-off of Step Right Up, she does so under the stipulation that the characters won’t do the right thing anymore. That vision is compromised when Gordon steps in to assert that comedy (at least, his brand of it) is more important than any measure of reality. The two have to put their heads together to find middle-ground. Their writers’ room combines Hannah’s hires (a young, diverse group of writers) with Gordon’s (old friends with his same sense of humor).

Slowly, Reboot reveals through this mess of a writers’ room its forceful “bothsidesism.” While it pokes fun at both generations of writers’ inherent faults and blind spots, its ultimate goal is a perfect unity of young and old; of humor and realism. The problem? It doesn’t hit either of these notes.

In the end, neither Reboot, nor the show within the show, challenges the status quo. Offering clean-cut and cliché resolutions boxed in by tired slapstick comedy, Reboot’s saccharine messages undermine its simultaneous desire to be challenging and insightful. It’s aggressive “bothsidesism”–without actually caring about one side (deeper meaning) and not adequately delivering on the other (comedy). 

I don’t think Reboot is at all self-aware in its satire attempt. If it is, however, it poses a questionable message: in order to appease the masses, this false and tepid middle ground should be as good as it gets for television that embraces all voices. Of course, for what it is, the sitcom genre will always contain a measure of unbelievable, eye-rolling silliness. But Reboot promises to deliver something more insightful–then fails to step (right) up to the plate.

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  • Verdict - 4.5/10

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