As with all art and media, television has a great capacity to vary widely in its quality. Some shows are universally loved and revered, a la “Breaking Bad” or “Mad Men.” However, as unfortunate as it is, it is a lot more likely for a show to be just straight up awful. And not the good kind of awful that makes you want to watch it to see how bad it can get, like “Sharknado.” I mean awful in the sense that it takes itself very seriously when nobody watching it will do the same. Now, having grown up, I realize that it was probably pretty hard to distinguish between good and bad television shows. At least in my case, I didn’t have a solidified taste yet, so I couldn’t tell the difference..
For that reason, I think it would be interesting to take a look at some shows that premiered when I was growing up and take a more objective look. More importantly, to get a good perspective, I think it is a good idea to look at shows that have gotten recent reboots as well, so as to see how they differ and if one is better than another and why.
I think a good place to start is with a universally beloved, yet absolutely terrible show from the 90s, “Full House.” For those who may not be aware, the basic premise of “Full House” is fairly simple. Bob Saget plays a single father who has to raise three daughters, and he brings in help from his brother-in-law and his childhood friend. The show is very well known for being nothing short of a fountain of family values, moral lessons and cheesy stories. It typifies the standard for “feel-good” television as it existed in the 90s. Every episode ended with one of the characters learning some life lesson or realizing that family is the most important, or blah blah blah. Honestly, just thinking about it makes me really bored. It should say a lot that the entire Wikipedia summary for the show only takes up two paragraphs for 192 episodes. The primary problem I have with the show is that it’s afraid to do anything different. It introduces maybe a new character every couple of seasons, but otherwise, it lacks any kind of diversity.
Now, while I definitely chose Full House because almost everyone has seen it at least once and it is like the typical retro show for our generation, I also chose it because there was a spin-off series released in 2016 called “Fuller House”. Fuller House borrows a lot of elements from the original series. In fact, the basic premise is almost entirely identical. A single parent recruits help from a relative and a friend to raise their three young children, and supposedly hilarity is supposed to ensue. However, from the couple of episodes that I’ve watched, hilarity never quite arrives. It relies largely on the “nostalgia factor,” in which it cashes in on the willingness of fans of Full House to tune in. It has all of the same actors, save for the Olsen twins, who apparently couldn’t be bothered to come back for this piece of crap. Frankly, I don’t blame them. It’s a dumpster fire of a program, garnering poor reviews around the board. It does nothing original, it only copies the first show, which says a lot, because the original wasn’t exactly a fountain of original ideas. Recurring appearances by the original cast can only do so much to save what is ultimately a subpar show.
I believe that these shows, while both rather terrible in their own right, suffer from altogether different problems. Full House suffers from a lack of variety. While I have never actually done this, I imagine that if you were to watch five or so episodes in a row, even without having seen the show prior, you could imagine exactly what jokes they will make and exactly what lesson they hope to teach. Its primary problem is that it’s predictable. However, with Fuller House, the problem lies with the fundamental premise. It is a show that is already based around a flaw, but instead of correcting the problems with the old show, it instead steers into the skid to attempt to capture what made the old show as prolific as it was.
I’ve noticed that other rebooted shows share some similar issues. For example, take a look at the rebooted “Teen Titans,” branded “Teen Titans Go!” that is universally hated by fans of the original series, myself included. It attempts to take the old characters, change the art style to make it more “kid friendly,” and thrust them into a completely different genre that just flat out doesn’t work. They took the same old characters, and even got all of the same voice actors from the old show, but they failed to capture what made the old series popular. It falls short, because it attempts to do too much by applying modern design philosophy to something already designed well, which obviously does not end well.
Of course, “Fuller House” is not a perfect representation of the crappy television of the modern day. However, it seems as if it’s a symptom of a larger problem, rather than the problem itself. The past few years have been characterized by too many media reboots. “Hawaii Five-0” got a reboot recently, as did “Teen Titans”, “The Odd Couple”, “Macgyver” and “The Powerpuff Girls”. In recent movies, we’ve seen a revival of the “Star Wars” franchise, the “Mummy” franchise, “Ghostbusters” and “Spiderman” (for the second time, might I add). It seems the standard for modern media is to look back on what succeeded in the past and try to approach it from a more elevated or modern perspective. I can say honestly that I don’t like the direction that this is going, but perhaps I haven’t seen the right reboot yet.