Please Stop Killing the Shows of My Youth With Mediocre Reboots
Do we really want or need another new season of "Frasier"? Or "Sex and the City"? Or anything?
Earlier this week, it was announced that Kelsey Grammer will again reprise his role as Dr. Frasier Crane in a rebooted version of Frasier on ViacomCBS’s new streaming service Paramount+.
“Having spent over 20 years of my creative life on the Paramount lot, both producing shows and performing in several, I’d like to congratulate Paramount+ on its entry into the streaming world,” Grammer said in a statement. “I gleefully anticipate sharing the next chapter in the continuing journey of Dr. Frasier Crane.”
Of course, this isn’t the first time he’s revisited the character. Grammer first played Frasier Crane on Cheers in the mid-’80s before portraying the Seattle-based radio psychiatrist for 11 seasons on Frasier in the ’90s. Still, there’s a chance he may be a little rusty: it’s been 17 years since Frasier wrapped its original run.
“Frasier is one of the most acclaimed comedies in modern television history and truly defines premium storytelling,” CBS Studios president David Stapf said in a statement about the reboot. “There has long been a call from fans for its return, and that call is now answered thanks to the amazing Kelsey Grammer reprising his iconic role of Dr. Frasier Crane and a brilliant creative plan from Joe, Chris and Kelsey. We can’t wait to reveal its next chapter on Paramount+.”
Despite that, there are reasons to be wary of the plan to revive the show — chief among them, the fact that as of now, Grammer appears to be the only original cast member who has officially signed on to the project. CNN reports that there’s currently “no word as to whether his supporting cast members will join him in the new series, meaning the future of Frasier’s brother Niles, played by David Hyde Pierce, and Jane Leeves’s Daphne remain unclear.” Should Frasier have to carry on without Niles and Daphne, it’ll be just the latest rebooted series with an incomplete cast. HBO Max recently announced that its Sex and the City: The Next Chapter will not include Kim Cattrall’s Samantha.
It all begs the question: Why, then, do we keep doing this? The Frasier and Sex and the City revivals are just two of many planned reboots headed to streaming services in the near future. Paramount+ also has plans for a new version of Rugrats featuring the original voice actors, new versions of some classic MTV series like Road Rules, Behind the Music and Yo! MTV Raps, and a Criminal Minds revival. But thus far, save for perhaps the latest season of Twin Peaks, there is yet to be a show that has been revived to a degree of success anywhere near on par with the original. In fact, most revivals are quite bad. Even if a reboot doesn’t have to grapple with how to explain away missing cast members, they rarely hang around for more than one or two extra seasons, not adding much to the show’s legacy. In the worst cases, they actively harm that legacy. (Remember how disappointingly bad the new seasons of Arrested Development turned out to be?) Will & Grace was originally considered groundbreaking when it debuted in 1998, but when the sitcom returned to NBC in 2017, it felt woefully out-of-step with the times, like a tired relic from a bygone era when sitcoms were filmed in front of a live studio audience and full of tired stereotypes about LGBTQ characters.
The thing is, we think we want to know what our favorite TV characters would be up to today, but most shows that become classics are able to do so because they’ve managed to capture lightning in a bottle or speak to a very specific moment in time. There’s a reason the old showbiz adage “always leave them wanting more” is considered sage advice; no one wants to see a 60-year-old Don Draper pitching New Coke in the ’80s. Most shows hang on for far too long during their original runs as it is. (I maintain that there is no need for any scripted TV show to exist for more than five or six seasons.) How many more times can we keep returning to the Frasier well before it runs dry?
The fact that so many of these reboots are occurring on new streaming services also presents a problem. There are already too many streaming services, and we’ve reached a point where viewers are going to have to prioritize which ones they want to subscribe to based on what shows they offer. That means the days of event television and water-cooler moments are all but over, and a reboot is far less likely to find its way into the zeitgeist than it would have during its original network-TV run. Is someone who already is paying for Peacock to watch old episodes of The Office, Discovery Plus to get their 90 Day Fiance fix, AMC+ to watch old episodes of Mad Men and HBO Max to be able to watch the new Sex and the City really going to add another subscription (on top of the other big ones like Netflix, AppleTV+ and Hulu) just so they can watch a 66-year-old Kelsey Grammer continue to play a character he first started portraying in 1984?
Dr. Crane will be listening, but it it’s hard to imagine many people will be watching.
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