Reboot series: nostalgia rush

Are reboots worth your time? Yet to be determined… Lee Lim

The bittersweet reality of re-watching favourite childhood shows with an adult’s critical lens

The 21st century represents the era of reboots. Many of us grew up with entertainment that was nostalgic. Whether you are a fan of The Vampire Diaries, Desperate Housewives, or Gilmore Girls, there was a wide array of television to consume. The reality is that most of us were much too young to be watching these shows. Adulting does not only involve growing pains. It also involves re-watching a show you used to love as a teenager with a grown-up perspective on a random Tuesday night.

This allows you to consume content you previously loved, now critically. Perhaps you grow up to re-watch Gossip Girl and realize that Serena van der Woodsen was actually a selfish person who was never there for her best friend. Maybe you grow up to re-watch The Vampire Diaries only to finally see Damon Salvatore for who he really is: an abuser. Or maybe you grow up to look back at Gilmore Girls only to see that Rory Gilmore was the poster child for entitlement and privilege. All of these feelings are absolutely valid.

As a die-hard fan of Sex and the City (SATC), I was over the moon when I heard that the show would be coming back with a reboot nearly 20 years after its first episode. I wondered how everything would turn out, which characters would be in it, and which characters would not. The reality is that SATC was a show that pioneered and paved the way for dating politics and dialogues revolving around relationships.

Each episode would have a key topic and Carrie Bradshaw would write about her thoughts on the topic according to her experiences and beliefs, as well as those of her dearest friends: Charlotte York, Samantha Jones, and Miranda Hobbes. In 1998, the HBO sitcom hit TV screens, focusing on the lives and relationships of four 30-something New York women. These were women who were adjusting to life, navigating relationships and careers. It gave us what we wanted: fashion, couture, fun, and frill. Today, SATC is remembered for many of its iconic looks such as Carrie’s tutu skirt, her wedding dress, Charlotte’s Elizabeth Taylor inspired pink dress, and Miranda’s suits.

Carrie is a character that appears as the protagonist but, the more you watch the show, her flaws come to the surface and you realize that she is in fact the antagonist. The SATC hive is filled with fans who love the show, but are deeply critical of Carrie and her choices. In fact, she represents a character who settled for an emotionally unavailable man with the hopes that perhaps one day, he would finally commit to her. Maybe one day he would finally appreciate her.

He never did. He strung her along for 10 years, only to settle for her and die in the reboot. The reboot meant that all of the viewers questions might be answered. I couldn’t help but wonder, is Carrie truly happy with Mr. Big? Does she love being married? What about her friends? How are they doing?

Sarah Jessica Parker (SJP) confirmed that a spin-off series would be on the way. SJP, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon confirmed on January 11, 2021, through Instagram that the reboot would be called And Just Like That…. Shortly after, streaming service HBO Max stated in a press conference that viewers would be receiving 10 30-minute episodes each week. Ultimately the show drew in viewers, as it is a cult favourite. However, each week, the show dwindled in quality as the storylines were not up to the standards that I was expecting.

The show premiered on December 9, 2021, with a 48 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes by 79 critics, followed by an audience score of 29 per cent. The heading on the website reads “And Just Like That… fails to recapture Sex and the City’s head fizz, but like a fine wine, these characters have developed subtler depths with age.”  The reality is that And Just Like That… does not seem to reflect the je ne sais quoi of SATC. Instead of focusing on the characters we loved thriving in their 50s and 60s, focusing on the reality of aging and its nuances, all we received as viewers was a show that is desperately trying to stay relevant, hip, and cool. “How do you do, fellow kids?” is the perfect representation of And Just Like That….

Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars (PLL) are some of the other shows that have received reboots. Original Sin premiered on July 28, 2022 on HBO Max. The show had an 88 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes by 17 critics, as well as an audience score of 70 per cent. Original Sin is a show that was received better, however it strayed away from the iconic world of PLL and its juicy drama that we came to love and enjoy. Original Sin is a show that is laced with thrill and horror.

Starring Blake Lively as Serena van der Woodsen and Leighton Meester as the iconic Blair Waldorf, Gossip Girl is a show that focuses on the lives of New York teenagers living in the Upper East Side. HBO Max’s version of Gossip Girl was cringe-worthy, boring, and fell flat. The issue was not that the focus of the show was on Gen Z; rather, it was the lazy writing and the struggle of relevance that was unattractive to me as a viewer.

To some, reboots represent a lack of originality, whilst to others they are a way for people to enjoy old favourites. Where do we land on reboots as viewers if it seems that they stray away from the source material as Gossip Girl, PLL, and SATC have done? Show runners desperately want to relate to Gen Z and Millennial viewers. However, they are failing due to the simple reality that what is missing from Hollywood is honest, gripping, unapologetic story-telling that feels genuine and real; one that does not feel like having Thanksgiving dinner with your family and your weird uncle who is desperately trying to relate to you.


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