It feels like every day brings news of yet another reboot, remake, or reimagining of this or that beloved (or sometimes, not all that beloved) film or TV show.
I bet it wouldn’t take you 20 seconds to name five properties that have been rebooted just this year.
Now, I’m not here to debate whether all this rebooting signifies an absence of creativity or an unwillingness to take business risks in the entertainment industry. Maybe it is. Or maybe the internet has made a cottage industry out of nostalgia, and we’ve given Hollywood a step-by-step guide on how to capitalize on it.
Chicken. Egg. Whatever.
No, I’m here on a different mission: protect a precious few classics from what’s starting to feel like inevitable pillaging by the Netflix/Hulu/HBO/Hollywood money-printing machine. The premise is simple. Keep your grubby hands off of these precious few properties, and you can do whatever else you want. Deal? Good.
The Wonder Years
You could argue that Boy Meets World was its own kind of reboot of The Wonder Years (which then received its own reboot with Girl Meets World a few years ago), but what I’m really worried about is seeing someone try to recreate TWY’s pitch-perfect balance of youthful innocence and world-weary coming-of-age story. Kevin Arnold was both naïve and wise beyond his years, which made him an ideal representation of childhood and adulthood alike. Any reboot would have to position Kevin as an adult raising his own kid, which would split the focus of the show and dilute what made the kid-centric original so great.
If you really pushed me, you could maybe get me to admit that, yes, some of the effects in E.T. don’t quite hold up as well as I might like. But that’s about as much of a concession as I’d be willing to make regarding how the film has aged. Unlike many movies from my youth that don’t hold up all that well, E.T. is rock solid. That said, I can see somebody pitching the idea of revisiting our little brown friend as he returns to Earth and enlists either grown-up Elliot or a new kid (or both) to help him resolve some paper-thin plot point. And yes, the eighties nostalgia machine — with plenty of help from Stranger Things — is firing on all cylinders at the moment, but this one is (ok, should be) untouchable.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Uncle Phil has passed away, and Will, Carlton, and Hillary return to Phil and Viv’s Bel-Air mansion to sort through the family’s affairs, reconnect, and reminisce, all sorting through the unexpected challenges they’ve faced over the last two decades. That’s it. That’s the elevator pitch. It sounds like a not-so-terrible idea, but it’s absolutely a terrible idea. Fresh Prince was made in an era before Will Smith spent a decade as the world’s brightest young movie star, but now, it would be impossible to watch any Fresh Prince reunion without being painfully aware of Smith’s status (even if he’s not the box office draw he once was). He was always the sun around which everyone else orbited, but now he’d be a black hole, and I don’t think the show could recover. Plus, not having Uncle Phil — the show’s true soul — would cast a pall over the entire endeavor.
Back to the Future
Setting aside the likelihood of getting Michael J. Fox to return in what would surely be the Doc Brown ro… wait, what’s that? Christopher Lloyd is alive!? He’s only 78!? Ok, so now you’d have to get Marty McFly and Doc Brown back into the fold (calling it Back to the Future without those two would add insult to the injury of a reboot), and come up with a compelling story to warrant returning to the material? Weren’t the sequels enough of a punishment for the people who loved the original? I mean, sure, we got those self-lacing Nikes, but besides that? Aside from the temptation of getting Fox in front of the camera again for old times’ sake, trying to bring Back to the Future out of the past would be enough of a sin that I’d consider building a time machine to go back and make sure the reboot never happened.
Rumor has it that this one might actually already be en route to a reboot or sequel. Michael Keaton is having a moment, after all, and since no sweet piece of nostalgia can go unmined these days, rumor is that the Ghost with the Most will return to the big screen. For some reason, this one strikes me as the worst idea on this entire list. It’s not that Beetlejuice is the most beloved property or even the best work on this list, but the movie is just so weird and singular that bringing the character back would shatter some of the amazement that the original got made in the first place. And on a practical level, does Tim Burton come back to direct? And if so, does the new Beetlejuice become a CGI-stuffed mess like much of Burton’s late career work? I’m afraid chances are high. Let’s just let this bizarre piece of creative brilliance stand on its own, shall we? (We’re neglecting the animated series altogether. Agreed?)
In fact, for once, let’s let sleeping dogs lie. Some things (ok, most things) are better left un-rebooted, un-sequeled, and otherwise left to the business of warming our thoughts about the past. Let’s let these five do that, shall we?