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'The X-Files,' 'Twin Peaks,' 'Heroes Reborn': Why we love (and hate) TV reboots

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When director David Lynch tweeted on April 5 that he would no longer be participating in Showtime’s planned revival of Twin Peaks, the series was left in limbo and fans were left holding their breath. While its fate is as murky as the goings-on of Twin Peaks, Wash., there are about 10 other reboots waiting in the wings, including Fox’s The X-Files and NBC’s Coach. Bringing a tried-and-true project back to life has become a regular occurrence for networks, and it’s prompting a debate about whether audiences will soon suffer from reboot fatigue. EW writers James Hibberd and Natalie Abrams weigh the pros and cons of the revival influx.

NATALIE ABRAMS: In the time it took me to write this sentence, it’s likely that another 14 reboots were announced. Networks are dipping into the vault of proven products because they want the built-in brand recognition—look no further than last week, when ABC touted the potential return of the Muppets. Maybe it’s a post-Lost fear that audiences won’t latch onto an entirely new series on a weekly basis, but it’s starting to feel like we’re being placated with the familiar. Seriously, are there just no original ideas left?

JAMES HIBBERD: It’s not like anybody is cheering, “Yay, unoriginality! Let’s support recycled ideas rather than move forward with bold artistic invention!” Yet when these projects are announced, fans get excited—the Internet practically exploded when the X-Files news broke. TV is about making people happy with warm, familiar stories. Natalie, why do you hate happiness?

ABRAMS: Because I’m evil! First off, fan happiness can backfire if a project doesn’t live up to expectations. And second, if the recent attempts have proved anything, it’s that fans may tune in for the nostalgia factor but quickly realize that this isn’t their show. I grew up on Boy Meets World, but when I watched Girl Meets World, it did not bring back those same warm and fuzzy coming-of-age feelings.

HIBBERD: Girl Meets World is a unique case. It’s like all the fans of Boy Meets World forgot it was a show for kids. Of course the new version couldn’t please them any more than they’d enjoy a snack of Fruit Roll-Up burritos with Cap’n Crunch filling. (Was that just me?)

ABRAMS: Not just you. Adding that to my grocery list.

HIBBERD: That said, you’re right that TV reboots don’t usually work—by my count, only Syfy’s Battlestar Galactica and CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 have been successful in recent years. The upcoming titles (The X-Files, Twin Peaks, Full House, Coach and Heroes Reborn), however, aren’t technically reboots. They’re old shows restarting as sequels with the original actors and producers. Before, the idea was “How can we take this famous title and make it young, and cool, and different?” That’s how we got bad twin versions of The Bionic Woman and Knight Rider. But a hit isn’t about title or concept—it’s about capturing lightning in a bottle in a tornado. So these sequels make more sense. Consider The X-Files: There’s no creative reason Mulder and Scully can’t pick up where they left off.

ABRAMS: These shows are usually announced so early, and it gives fans plenty of time to deconstruct exactly what could go wrong. Remember when NBC tried to reboot Say Anything… last fall? Director Cameron Crowe and John Cusack were so quick to vilify it that the network scrapped the idea. Their point was “Why ruin something that was already perfect?” We all have great memories of a series, and trying to replicate that formula is nearly impossible.

HIBBERD: But what can compete with memories? Every new drama I see has the unenviable task of having to compete with Breaking Bad. The only thing that matters is whether the new version of a show successfully tells compelling stories. A benefit of this new wave is many are being conceived as short-order series, so a win is easier—Heroes Reborn is 13 episodes, Twin Peaks nine, X-Files six—and I think we agree that nowadays less is more.

ABRAMS: Don’t get me wrong, I’ll definitely be tuning in to Heroes Reborn, but I have to wonder whether I’m watching because I loved the series—okay, I loved the first season and begrudgingly stuck by it in later years—or because I have a schadenfreude-esque curiosity to see if the network can actually make it feel fresh and entertaining.

HIBBERD: See, you’re curious and willing to watch. Resistance is futile—the revivals have already won! 

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