Our age of reboots, revivals, and revisitations is beginning to take its toll. With every new announcement comes the ceremonial rolling of the eyes from critics — unless they happen to be a fan of the IP, in which case the news is greeted with frenzied excitement — and grumblings from fans. Not that either has stopped the slow march toward net zero on creativity.
But while many reboots are content to do nothing more than update the technology for a beloved property (looking at you, “MacGuyver”) and cash in on its name recognition, some are interested in exploring and questioning what made the original iteration so resonant while addressing its earlier failings. The prime example is Pop TV’s dearly beloved “One Day at a Time,” which took the original’s premise (single mom and kids struggling with divorce) and applied it to a Latinx family. Suddenly, an entirely new world of stories opened up, from gender fluidity to PTSD.
That’s the tack that HBO Max’s “And Just Like That” is taking, as well. Using the absence of Kim Cattrall’s Samantha to add more BIPOC characters, the new take on “Sex and the City” is actively interrogating its own initial shortcomings in presenting a lily-white depiction of New York City for six seasons.
That a prestige, legacy series on HBO, shepherded by producers who have long served as gatekeepers of the brand, should do this is not surprising. What is more surprising is when the seemingly most disposable series rebrands turn out to be the ones with the most articulate narratives about life today.
Perhaps no one really thought we needed a new iteration of “Saved by the Bell” or “Gossip Girl” other than showrunners Tracey Wigfield and Joshua Safran. And a TV adaptation of “Child’s Play” from the film’s creator Don Mancini seemed, at first glance, like another opportunity to cash in on a franchise that had run out of cinematic steam. But all three series quickly turned into compelling, literate television with a lot more on their minds than high-gloss, no-calorie entertainment.