Keegan Michael Key - Reboot red carpet

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Reboot - HULU You know how in the old sitcom the characters always do the right thing?” says young showrunner Hannah (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’s Rachel Bloom) in the pilot of Hulu’s new comedy, Reboot. She’s pitching a renovated version of beloved 1990s family comedy Step Right Up to some Hulu executives. “They don’t always do the right thing anymore!” she promises. “I fuck with it, but in a fun way.” #reboot #hulu #fabtv Television loves to play with itself, and Reboot joins a long line of TV shows about TV shows, from The Dick Van Dyke Show and Murphy Brown to Extras and The Comeback. We are often told to “write what you know best”—hence the frequent appearances of plotlines focused on writers’ insecurities, awkward backstage encounters, and squabbles with network executives. What better way to work through your behind-the-scenes traumas and skewer your nemeses than making attractive performers re-enact the conflicts and ego-driven tantrums in your own TV series? 30 Rock, Bojack Horseman and It’s Garry Shandling’s Show (the grandaddy of the meta-TV sitcom) all set a high bar for small-screen satire. Alas, despite its cute premise, Reboot doesn’t quite reach that mark. Streaming has transformed our ideas of television comedy over the last decade. The broadcast network’s broad, risk-averse templates and well-worn punchlines unraveled into a more adventurous, open-ended idea of the situation comedy, more likely to be filmed in real locations rather than on-stage sets in front of a live audience. These days, that old-school network TV model sometimes feels like a fossil from some half-remembered past, when laughter was canned and jokes detonated punctually every 45 seconds. Reboot sets up its shop in this gap between the old and new styles of entertainment. It’s the brainchild of Steven Levitan, who co-created Modern Family, one of broadcast’s last massive must-see comedies that could appeal to all ages and to hip and square audiences alike. Levitan toiled in the sitcom salt mines for decades before Family, writing for Frasier and meta-comedy The Larry Sanders Show (the follow-up to It’s Garry Shandling’s Show) early in his career before going on to invent his own hits. Fictional showrunner Hannah is an indie filmmaker determined to find edgy new life in the bygone (fictional) Step Right Up, a broad, Full House-ish sitcom. In the process she revives the careers of original cast members Bree (Judy Greer), Reed (Keegan Michael-Key), Clay (Johnny Knoxville), and former child star Zack (Calum Worthy), all of whom have tumbled into post-primetime purgatory. Reed’s last role was as the voice of a hemorrhoid, but his theatrical aspirations are flattered by Hannah’s darkly comedic script. “It’s both the funniest thing you’ve ever read and you won’t laugh once,” he marvels. So Reed is devastated when Gordon (Paul Reiser), the show’s original showrunner, is hired to partner with Hannah. He wants to tilt Hannah's fresh take on the show back toward the original (read: cheesy) tone. A generational tug of war ensues that is also a battle between television’s past and future: tried-and-tired Pavlovian comedy, all signposted gags and stock characters, versus streaming-era dramedy with its signature genre blending and mixed moods.

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