With just about every show that exists receiving a reboot, sequel, or spiritual successor, it was only a matter of time before someone released a project quite literally about making a reboot. Titled (what else) Reboot, imagine a ridiculous fictional sitcom that plays up every age-old trope we’ve come to know and love yet ended years ago, and how different that show would be if retooled for today’s climate. Is bringing back the original cast worth it if they are all washed up has-beens? Showrun by Emmy-winning co-creator of Modern Family, Steven Levitan, Reboot groups a fantastic ensemble of seasoned comedy vets into a subversive, meta hit examining the arduous process of developing a hit TV show.
Reboot’s pilot episode start us off in an obvious place: the Hulu executive offices, of course. Burgeoning writer Hannah (Rachel Bloom, CW’s masterful Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Trolls: World Tour), fresh off her SXSW hit CuntSaw, pitches a reboot that may be too appealing to resist. Early 2000s sitcom Step Right Up followed a dysfunctional family and an ever-present neighbor as the ditzy stepdad adjusted to his new normal. The dad was played by Reed Sterling (Keegan-Michael Key, Keanu, Let’s Be Cops), who left the show to pursue a film career that never took off; Bree Marie Jensen (Judy Greer, Halloween Kills, Jawbreaker) was the mother, and she left Hollywood after marrying a duke; the neighbor was none other than Clay Barber (Johnny Knoxville, Jackass, A Dirty Shame), now a struggling stand-up comedian arrested multiple times over drug charges; and last but certainly not least, adorable child actor Zack Johnson (Calum Worthy, Hulu’s The Act, Doctor Doolittle 3) is now all grown up, having starred in a plethora of crappy straight-to-video releases, and amassing a fanbase of his own that he refers to as “the Zack pack.” Can Step Right Up still work in modern day?
Hannah’s pitch is to make the show edgier, more meta than ever before. In a hilarious sequence, Hannah and the room of execs rattle off tons of attempted reboots in varying ranges of success. By the time this opening scene concludes, Step Right Up has officially been greenlit: “Let’s remake something original!” Getting the original cast on board isn’t too difficult either, considering none of them are very in-demand. On day one, Step Right Up’s first showrunner, Gordon (Paul Reiser, Aliens, Stranger Things) is brought in to tighten up the scripting, and inject his signature humor. Gordon’s arrival also signals a fresh actress to step in unannounced at the table read to play Reed’s daughter—Timberly, from hit reality show Fuck Buddy Mountain. Immediately, tensions arise between Hannah and Gordon over the direction of this iteration of Step Right Up.
Each episode ranges from 20 to 35 minutes in length, and thanks to this breezy pace, Reboot is an easy recommend. Each member of the ensemble gets their time to shine. No one recognizes or remembers Zack, and Bree and Reed have some unfinished business in the romance department despite Reed’s ridiculous relationship with current girlfriend, Nora (Eliza Coupe, Future Man, The Estate). Clay is mostly trying to rebuild his life, and resuscitate his tarnished brand. My favorites in the cast are Rachel’s lesbian character Hannah, never afraid to stand up for what she believes in; hysterically impulsive Bree, who could have only been played by iconic Judy Greer; and Calum Worthy as Zack, the lovably idiotic child-at-heart.
As the series progresses, we spend time in the writer’s room, delve into the actors’ personal lives, take stops at their trailers, sit in on ADR sessions, and much more. Reboot is very meta—it embraces new tropes in each episode, but tackles every single one of them in a subversive way. Along for the ride are plenty of twists and turns, eventually culminating in a great finale that promises even more if Reboot gets a second season. There is nary an air of finality whatsoever, so I really hope we are able to see the finale’s threads paid off. Rare is the series that doesn’t waste at least one of its talented cast, but the way the story plays out here allows the creatives enough time in the sandbox to toy with everyone. Perfect for the binge-watch model, Reboot is a comedic breath of fresh air in a sea of sameness.
Reboot launches a brand-new hit when it debuts exclusively to Hulu members on Tuesday, September 20th.