Think Tank: TV Revivals and Reboots

I love "Gilmore Girls," but I don't need new episodes in my life.
I love “Gilmore Girls,” but I don’t need new episodes in my life.

“Gilmore Girls” is quite easily near the top of my list of all-time favorite television shows. For most of late middle school and throughout high school, I made watching afternoon reruns on ABC Family a ritual. I remember saying in my interview to be on my high school’s newspaper that the fictional character I was most like was Rory Gilmore.  I even watched it live on the WB on Tuesday nights. I wanted to go to Yale and be on the Yale Daily News. This is how much I loved “Gilmore Girls.” 

But when I read earlier this week that there are plans to revive “Gilmore Girls” for a limited run on Netflix, I was not a happy camper. In the last few years, revivals and reboots of old television shows and movies have become increasingly popular. When there’s an announcement that something is getting a Netflix season, the entire Internet explodes, and I saw at least five articles about the rumors of who was coming back and what the show might cover.

This has been at the front of my half-melted brain for the week, and I’ve been thinking about what this revival trend says about television in 2015 and how we consume culture. I’ve come to the realization that this trend is not a good one, and that there are several reasons why.

Internet culture and TV revivals are definitely connected.

Netflix has an incredible platform to deliver film and television across the globe, even though it’s not always the most helpful way to broaden our cultural horizons. When a show gets canceled, the conversation about moving it to online streaming is serious and becomes top entertainment news. If a production group wants to reinvigorate something badly enough, they make a Kickstarter and fundraise with the help of loyal fans. The Internet is an easy way to spread and strengthen fandom.

We’re living in a world where just about everything is instantaneous, and we demand that our cultural consumption is swift and easy. A revival like “Gilmore Girls” sort of speaks to that. We saturate the media with remembrance posts and listicles, and when we interview show runners or stars we always bring it up. The Internet won’t let anything ever die, so we just keep talking about the same things over and over and over again. Interviewers think that asking creators or actors questions about the shows or movies that they’ve moved away from is logical and interesting, because there’s some faction of the Internet that will go nuts. While this kind of reaction is significant to our understanding of how the Internet works and that there’s the potential to spread information like wildfire, a lack of temporal distance prohibits us from making good observations about the shows and culture in general.

This says a lot about how the audience views itself in the show-making process.

I might be in the minority, but I was satisfied with the ending of “Gilmore Girls.” I won’t make any specific comments for fear of #spoilers, but I liked how it left all of the characters. In my own head, I interpreted it in such a way that the ending was happy and that the characters ended up where they were supposed to. It solidified my understanding of the show and its universe in such a way that I could talk about it critically. I felt the same exact way about “Mad Men,” “Arrested Development” and “Breaking Bad.” They all became complete pieces of art, and I looked forward to reading retrospectives.

In one way, it puzzles me as to why other fans would want to crack the show back open. Sure, there’s probably more story about the Gilmore women to tell. But the show runners, who are in their own way artists, decided to end it in that way for whatever reason, whether it was artistic or financial or logistical. It’s the same pressure people put on J.K. Rowling to do more with “Harry Potter,” or George R. R. Martin to hurry up with more from the “A Song of Ice and Fire” world. We have such high expectations of the culture we consume, and think that in some way the people who make the things we like have to spend the rest of their creative lives revolving around those things. We also think that our collective power can make those things happen eventually, and that if we want more we deserve it. This cannot be particularly healthy for either side.

I love “Gilmore Girls,” but I really don’t want to read about it every day. There are too many other things to see and think about. There’s a difference between visiting an exhibit in 10 years about the show or buying a coffee table book of essays about the show, and having it constantly be at the cultural forefront.

We need to do a better job of making room for more original content. 

There are so many talented people in the world who have dreamt up entire universes and stories to tell on screen, and they never get to share them because we’re too busy trying to figure out how to revive or reboot stuff we’ve already seen. Taking inspiration or drawing parallels from different shows and other cultural areas is fantastic, but redoing them is entirely different. We should really be giving new creators a break and making space for them. In asking for and supporting original content on both our televisions and computer screens, we can do a better job of including marginalized groups or bringing awareness to important causes. Let’s close the books, television and films we’ve already made, and start to write even better ones.

What do you think about reboots and revivals? Let’s talk about it in the comments.