The following contains spoilers for Reboot Season 1, Episodes 1-4, now streaming on Hulu.
Imagine a comedy chronicling the tumultuous behind-the-scenes activities of a fictional comedy program, featuring a cast of beloved actors and one of the small screen’s most popular producers. It’s Hulu To restartcreated by Steven Levitan (Modern family, shoot me) and starring Judy Greer, Keegan Michael Key and Johnny Knoxville as the protagonists of the popular family sitcom Go straight up, reassembly 15 years later. The central cast is completed by The School of Good and Evil actor Rachel Bloom as the visionary behind the new iteration and Paul Reiser as the creator of the original series. But it also aptly describes a misstep by another TV impresario.
by Aaron Sorkin Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip premiered just months after its hit drama wrapped The west wing. Workshop 60 charted the realities of network television and sketch comedy in a political and polarizing time. Friends’ Matthew Perry and west wing alum Bradley Whitford played Matt Albie and Danny Tripp, who took over the long-running series of late-night comedy sketches Workshop 60 after its Lorne Michaels-esque creator quit Live. The team breathed new life into the series with sketches and bits met with unanimous positivity. And like the acclamation lavished on these fleetingly glimpsed sketches, the attention that the new Go up to the right in the universe is undeserved and confusing.
Why doesn’t Reboot reboot work?
The scenes from the original Go up to the right seen in To restart The pilot faithfully replicated the look of a turn-of-the-century “TGIF” series, with corny jokes punctuated by a jarring laugh track and suitably corny theme song. Sadly, there’s not much to differentiate these clips from the new scenes – which also rely on poor setups, tired punchlines, and an exaggerated studio audience. Some leeway is given because Reiser’s Gordon Gelman is an old-school television hand who wants revivals in the vein of the original series and goes so far as to assemble a room of wildly out of touch hack writers. It stands to reason that Gelman’s efforts would result in some dated elements and tones rearing their heads.
The main problem with To restartsimilar to Workshop 60, is the creative head(s) of the series praised for their groundbreaking material when they come across as more of a weak imitation. For Matt and Danny, it begins and ends with the Sketch “Pimp My Trike”, a soft MTV parody pimp my ride that wouldn’t have done the trick mad tv in its most derived and uninspired form. That a supposedly audacious filmmaker like To restartHannah Korman reportedly resorts to a banal joke about global warming as her first laugh in the new iteration of Go up to the right sounds seriously wrong – and is just one of many escapees.
How Reboot compares to Studio 60
Whether To restartthe writers thought about the short story Go up to the right as a send-off of similar family sitcom revivals like Netflix’s More complete house or peacock Punky Brewerit makes sense that they would carry a live studio audience despite their absence in current sitcoms (including the long-running hit Levitan modern family). The reason vanguard Korman would write a pilot for the dated three-camera format – or at the very least wouldn’t object, as some of the more egregious and older punchlines were added to his draft of the scenario.
During Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip brief run, it became increasingly self-referential, with its titled, overly serious tone called out by other characters and its budget issues reflected in-universe. To restart doesn’t reinvent the wheel and its stellar cast elevates material that might not work in lesser hands, but the same could have been said of Workshop 60. In order to avoid the rapid cancellation that the previous series suffered, To restart needs a greater dose of reality and a less complacent tone – or at least material worthy of the praise offered.
This riddle may well be To restartis the smartest and most subversive joke. Casting someone so routine and hackneyed as groundbreaking can be a subversive commentary on the medium in a way deeply unexpected by a creator well-versed in the subject. But if not, it’s a glaring flaw that the Hulu series needs to fix if it wants to survive in a second season.
Restart streams Tuesdays on Hulu.