Boy Meets Word Cory Topanga
Credit: Everett Collection

There’s nothing new under the sun — which is just the way Millennials like it.

We’re a generation obsessed with our own recent past, as befits the children of Boomers. Our influence on the entertainment industry is also increasing as we grow older. That’s probably why 2012 was the year that a collective nostalgia for pop culture from the ’90s and even the early ’00s hit in full force. Sure, the year also featured its share of projects inspired by/cribbing from the ’80s or even earlier — we learned it by watching you, Generation X! — but generally speaking, a yearning for the days of Boy Meets World, Titanic, and the Spice Girls has supplanted a yearning for the days of Growing Pains, Journey, and The Breakfast Club.

Here’s a month-by-month rundown of 2012’s most nostalgia-driven moments, from announcements of sequels and reboots to random late night comedy bits. (Tom Hanks recited a slam poem about what?) Though it’s pretty ’90s heavy, even non-Millennials should find something here they get a kick out of — or something that makes them righteously furious. (For many nostalgia hounds, the two go hand in hand.)


Beauty and the Beast 3-D continued a trend begun by The Lion King 3-D in 2011, opening to big numbers over Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend. But the month’s real nostalgia story was the Honda commercial that brought back Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller. What a righteous dude!


Another 3-D rerelease: Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace 3-D did boffo box office despite its unwieldy name. And more Disney: The company’s Disney XD channel announced plans to air a 3-D Pac-Man TV series called Pac-Man — The Adventure Begins. (Major missed opportunity for some Electric Boogaloo.) The Twisted Metal franchise, launched in 1995, got the reboot treatment with a new PS3 game long on carnage and frustration. We learned a Vacation reboot featuring a grown-up Rusty taking his family to Wally World was in the works. And in news that will make you feel old, this month also saw the 10th anniversary of Britney Spears’s Crossroads.

Also, at one point, Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst showed up to sing his own song in a karaoke bar. He was just doing it for the nookie, though.


James Van Der Beek cracked the self-parody code by playing himself in Don’t Trust the B– in Apt. 23. The cast of Blossom reunited in an Old Navy commercial, a trend that would continue throughout the year. (See also: Beverly Hills, 90210 and Christmas Vacation). ABC Family even announced plans to make a fifth (?!) Home Alone movie.

And then there was the great Michael Bay Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fiasco of ’12, in which the Transformers director revealed plans to change the Turtles into aliens in a new reboot movie and the Internet went completely bonkers. But depending on which rumors you believe, the movie has either been pushed back to May 2014 or put on indefinite hold.


Molly Ringwald impressed with a fresh, funny “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit, while Carlton Banks — a.k.a. Alfonso Ribeiro of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air — showed off his dance moves during what was billed as the world’s largest flash mob. Also, there was the whole Tupac hologram thing, which may or may not have launched a creepy trend.

In other news: American Reunion came and went, Titanic 3-D — released to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking — fared much better, and we were faced with two reboots: a new Sabrina the Teenage Witch that cast the sorceress as a superhero (groan) and a new Care Bears TV series that actually looked pretty cute.


Not to be outdone by his onscreen cousin, Will Smith brought back some of his biggest rap hits at the ultra-nostalgic after party for Men in Black 3. Biff from Back to the Future resurfaced when an FAQ postcard he made went viral. The Expendables 2 traded on our love of big ’80s action movies and their stars, while Mad Men, randomly enough, traded on our love of The WB and Nickelodeon. And VH1, the channel that virtually created the modern nostalgia movement with I Love the ’80s, launched Miss You Much, a “where are they now” riff focused on stars of the ’80s and ’90s.


The Comeback Kids: Melissa Joan Hart revealed she would explain it all in an upcoming memoir. Arsenio Hall revealed that he’d soon be back on the airwaves with new talk show. Christine Lakin of Step by Step revealed that she still existed with a new mockumentary web series. Nickelodeon also launched its rebooted version of the kiddie game show Figure it Out, while the long-in-the-works Jurassic Park 4 finally gained some momentum (and a few writers).


Was everybody too busy arguing about The Dark Knight Rises to indulge in nostalgia this month? The only exception: A six-part series called The Sweet Life picked up where Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley Confidential left off, continuing the adventures of Perfect Size 6 4 twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield.


More televised reunions and returns than you can shake a zigazigah at: The Spice Girls were together again at the London Olympics, while 98 Degrees and the Backstreet Boys followed their lead on Today and Good Morning America, respectively. Michael J. Fox, Lisa Whelchel, and Hilary Duff all announced that they’d soon be back on TV as well. ALF is also due for another appearance on Earth — the same people who adapted The Smurfs into a CGI/live action blend are making an ALF movie.


Cartoon Network celebrated its 20th birthday with a trippy video. Full House celebrated its 25th birthday with a reunion that brought together every cast member besides Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson. How rude! Justin Timberlake didn’t lead an ‘Nsync reunion, but he did help to relaunch Myspace. Green Day and No Doubt released new albums, continuing the year’s “new music from ’90s bands” trend.

In other Ninja Turtles news, Nickelodeon premiered its revamped TMNT TV series, which managed not to make fans apoplectic. And then Bravo announced plans for a scripted series based on Heathers, which sounds about as necessary as eating a brain tumor for breakfast.


Tom Hanks proved once more that he’s Hollywood’s most delightful star by reciting a slam poem about Full House on Jimmy Fallon, just ’cause. The New York Film Festival’s 25th anniversary screening of The Princess Bride was similarly great, as was Mythbusters‘s detailed explanation of whether Jack had to die in Titanic. Less great: There’s going to be a Family Circus movie.


Also important: Wreck-It Ralph demonstrated the best of nostalgia culture, seamlessly blending beloved old properties with creative new settings, characters, and storylines. The Baby-Sitters Club got re-released on e-readers. We saw the first trailer for Jurassic Park 3-D. TLC revealed plans for a new album. Disney revealed plans for a sequel to Life-Sized, an original movie starring Tyra Banks and Lindsay Lohan. Furbies returned just in time to terrify a new generation of kids this Christmas. The long-delayed Red Dawn remake landed with a whimper. And Ashlee Simpson tried for a comeback of her own, minus the embarrassing SNL jiggery.


Honestly, this month’s been pretty quiet, nostalgia-wise. In fact, December dealt a blow to the very concept of nostalgia culture when an exhausted Dan Aykroyd gave a long interview about the troubled production that is Ghostbusters 3, indicating that the movie might never get made.

At least we have Jack Moore’s instantly viral Modern Seinfeld Twitter feed, which imagines storylines for Jerry and co. in the 21st century. Could a reboot of the show about nothing be on the horizon in 2013?

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