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Monitor: Out with the old and in with the… old? The great reboot epidemic of 2016

A brand new influx of second-hand television shows has led Aaron Yap to question whether we are suffering a reboot epidemic.

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Corey Hawkins stars in the 24: Legacy

Last week Fox dropped a bunch of trailers for their upcoming 2016-2017 TV slate. Many of these were reboots and remakes of pre-existing film/TV properties: 24: Legacy, Prison Break, The Exorcist, Lethal Weapon and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Meanwhile over at CBS, MacGyver and Star Trek reboots are waiting in the wings (the network has also just ordered Training Day). And if that’s not enough to suggest that we’re in the midst of some form of TV reboot mania, the CW have Frequency and The Notebook, NBC Uncle Buck and Taken, USA Shooter, and A&E Roots. Lest we forget, Twin Peaks is getting a much anticipated revival at Showtime.

Perhaps there isn’t sufficient evidence to qualify this trend as an epidemic of debilitating proportions. After all, there is so much TV around; in general, the whole medium is in a more fanatically productive state than it has ever been during any other period in history. Much of that feeling of being inundated with unoriginal programming boils down to perception. Brand new shows with no built-in audience will require that extra push to get into the public eye; recognisable franchises will stand out immediately. Half the job for the marketing team is done before it even reaches the screen.

But it certainly begs the question whether TV –now no longer considered the graveyard for hungry, out-of-work Hollywood stars but a viable, lucrative career path and widely accepted bastion for Great Storytelling – is adopting those same practices that has made contemporary mainstream Hollywood such a vacuum for new original voices and ideas. Is it time we moan the lack of “the next Breaking Bad or The Wire”?

Looking roughly at the last five years in reboot/remake terms, mediocre performances and indifferent reception far outweigh the successes. The superior likes of Hannibal and Fargo have reassured us that going back into the well isn’t a terrible thing per se. But held up against the rest of the crowd – the offerings of which don’t inspire much excitement – they are both looking more like outliers, happy accidents, particularly in the case of Hannibal’s boundary-pushing extremes.

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The Rush Hour reboot received little enthusiasm

Rush Hour, a remake of the Jackie Chan/Chris Rock action-comedy franchise, was just cancelled after one season, as was the sequel to the Steven Spielberg sci-fi thriller Minority Report. The nostalgia-baiting return of The X-Files received underwhelming reviews. As for Fuller House, was this glorified content-filler really on anyone’s must-watch radar?

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Of these, Twin Peaks is the only one that seems to make any creative sense, in that it doesn’t utterly reek of generic rehash. The show’s pop-culture reach is substantial. Its central mystery – the murder of small-town high schooler Laura Palmer – seized the imagination of TV watchers in 1990. Its original creator, everyone’s favourite visionary weirdo David Lynch, is overseeing the entire project armed with an unbelievably star-studded cast. Maybe most crucially, this revival allows the show a proper closure that it didn’t have when ABC pulled it in ‘91 after two seasons (which is not to say the season two ending wasn’t a beautifully satisfying mind-fuck on its own).

The trailers for the TV remakes of The Exorcist, Lethal Weapon, Shooter and Frequency don’t appeal to me, although it might be interesting to see if the latter can create a compelling serialised drama out of the movie’s goofy ham-radio-time-travel-serial-killer plot. I predict Lethal Weapon, with its warmed-over buddy-cop schtick, will meet a similar fate to Rush Hour. On the other hand, I’m willing to give 24: Legacy and Prison Break each a chance, simply for fannish reasons. Both shows limped to the finish line in their pre-revival incarnations, but circumstances surrounding their continuation aren’t without interest.

Positioned equally as a spin-off and reboot – “The Clock Resets” reads the tagline – 24: Legacy arrives with a new lead, Corey Hawkins, and no familiar faces in sight (though one could probably regard the presence of Miranda Otto, recently seen in 24 producer Howard Gordon’s other not-dissimilar show Homeland, as “familiar”). Hardcore fans have been resistant of the change; visit the 24 Facebook page and you’ll see an echo chamber of “no Jack, no 24” sentiment drowning out those who’re open to the idea of a fresh face-lift.

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Sure, it’s all somewhat disconcerting if you’re a long-standing fan. The very existence of 24: Legacy diminishes the hope of us ever seeing another complete Jack Bauer-centered adventure again (Sutherland’s off, ironically, playing a president in ABC’s upcoming conspiracy drama Designated Survivor). The divide in star quality and iconic status between the younger-demo-angling Hawkins and a veteran like Sutherland, is huge; Hawkins coming in like this isn’t unlike The Bourne Legacy’s Jeremy Renner trialing to be a substitute for The Bourne Identity’s Matt Damon. And history has proven that when beloved leads are replaced (see: The Office, The X-Files), shows never really regain their footing.

But look, Hawkins was great as Dr. Dre in Straight Outta Compton, and if the previous 24 resurrection, the tautly spun Live Another Day, is anything to go by, the showrunners should be able to whip up another corker of a thriller. The trailer leans heavily on the side of formula, down to Otto assuming a Chloe-sidekick-type role in assisting Hawkins. But the action looks palpably intense and frenetic in classic 24 fashion, and Hawkins is comfortable getting dirty.

I’m less confident that the Prison Break sequel will be any good, mainly because its revival is predicated on the hoariest, most desperate and eye-rolling of twists: a main character thought to be dead but actually isn’t.

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At the same time, this is the kind of hook that made it one of the most agreeably trashy and preposterous shows of the mid-2000s. Prison Break was ideally a high-concept one-seasoner but somehow expanded into a never-ending small-screen Fast and Furious for prison escapees. Yet another prison break plot might even be pushing it for devotees accustomed to the show’s implausibilities, but the trailer’s getting-the-gang-back-together vibe is hitting where it counts.

Now who can I see about this great idea I have for bringing LOST back….


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