What to Watch: “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”

If you’ve ever loved a comedian – whether that’s as a S.O., a friend, a family member – you know what it’s like to support their comedy dreams. The biggest show of love you can have for a comedian is attending an open mic.

Miriam “Midge” Maisel is a novice comic’s dream supporter. She attends all of her husband’s open mics, helps him write new jokes, brings friends to his performances, and makes brisket to bribe the host for an earlier time slot. She’s also a great wife: keeps a good home, raises two kids, and goes to her husband’s open mics. She has it all – until secrets start coming out and her life as she knew it is shaken to its core. By the end of the pilot, she finds herself on stage doing stand-up and commanding the room, getting bigger laughs than her husband ever did.

Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls) has created a beautiful and unapologetically Jewish show. I mean, the Maisels are preparing to have the rabbi over for breaking fast of Yom Kippur. Rachel Brosnahan (House of Cards) is absolutely charming as Midge Maisel. Within the first five minutes, you know exactly who she is and her history up to this moment. She’s deeply in love with her husband Joel (Michael Zegen, Rescue Me) and her support is unwavering, not a surprise given the year is 1958. Tony Shaloub (Monk) and Marin Hinkle (Two and a Half Men) play her frustrated and concerned parents.

Alex Borstein (Getting On) plays Susie Myerson, an employee at the comedy club, who sees Midge’s act and encourages her to continue. Susie compares Midge to Mort Sahl, a comparison Midge does not find herself worthy of, especially during her time of crisis. Susie says she’s right about this, just as she’s right she’s going to be alone the rest of her life. Then she delivers the line that hit me right in the feels: “I do not mind being alone. I just do not want to be insignificant.”

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is hilarious, endearing, and an absolute joy to watch. I cannot recommend it enough. You can watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime.

‘Schitt’s Creek’ Just Released A New Trailer For Season 4 And I Am Screaming

As you all know, I’m obsessed with Schitt’s Creek to the point where I’m writing fanfiction for it. (You knew this was coming.) CBC/Pop! just released a full-length trailer today and it has made January 24th feel like an eternity away. It’s a great trailer (Watch it here!) that highlights all our favorite parts of the show and I want to dissect each individual part because I can’t stop screaming.

  1. Dead Guy in Room 4 – Admittedly, I know what this refers to because I saw this episode at VultureFestLA, but oh my god am I excited for everyone to see how this unfolds.
  2. Alexis at Elmdale College – Alexis as a (community) college girl is just aces. This is a girl who would’ve loved some big Division I party school or super expensive liberal arts school but instead she’s stuck at some rinky-dink college in nearby Elmdale.
  3. David & Patrick’s Relationship – You knew this was coming. This is David’s longest relationship (and Patrick’s first!) and that really says a lot about my baby! He’s growing up! And things are good! Patrick apparently sends David a 4-month-iversary giant heart-shaped cookie before learning this fact. And from my constant rewatches of season 3’s “Grad Night”, this move says a lot about Patrick too. (Recap: David’s upset his family forgot his birthday and says to a customer that he wishes everyone took special days seriously.) Look at what Patrick’s doing!!! I’m just saying!!! (Also, all the serious heart-eyes that are happening? Murder me.)
  4. Alexis Graduating from College – Marketing and Pubic Relations. I smell an uphill college administration battle for Alexis and I am here. for. it.
  5. “It’s television’s Moira Rose!” – Moira is always at her best when she’s trying to make the best of a shitty (ha!) situation and returning to acting. Who could ever forget the fruit wine commercial? Catherine O’Hara is a goddess and I cannot wait to see what bizarre performance she’s cooked up this time.
  6. Alexis has… friends? – Alexis is trying to bond with Stevie and a woman at the motel’s counter. Alexis and Stevie haven’t really had many scenes alone together, if any. The possibility that talking about how Zac Efron was a booty call is her idea of ‘female bonding’ is sooo Alexis.
  7. Everyone’s Here!! – Moira, Johnny, David, Alexis, Roland, Stevie, Ted, and Pa… Patrick. The first six were a given. I’m so thrilled that not only is Noah Reid (Patrick) sticking around, but so is Dustin Milligan (Ted). They’re both such excellent foils to David and Alexis, respectively. Crossing my fingers for season regular promotions!
  8. Roland & Johnny – There is no such thing as too much Chris Elliott, especially when he’s being gross. Nope. Not possible.

Things I want to happen this season:

  • David and Patrick to not break up ever because I don’t think my heart could take it
  • Alexis confidently turning down a date with a guy she’s attracted to because she’s a strong independent woman and she don’t need no man
  • Moira doing some sort of cabaret show where she just does different characters or some weird showcase thing
  • More Johnny/Stevie motel co-owners shenanigans. (We took a “Which Schitt’s Creek Character Are You?” quiz and my boss who introduced me to the show is Johnny and I’m Stevie so you can understand my affinity to this relationship.)
  • I want Patrick to get a last name!
  • Tension between Alexis and whoever Ted hires as his new assistant. But not like, romantic tension. Career tension. Because I’m here for career-driven Alexis.
  • She’s at the end of the trailer, but I love Ronnie (Karen Robinson) and I hope we get more of her.
  • Will anyone remember who Gwen is? Probably not.
  • Rizwan Manji’s Ray has another business. Some suggestions: salmon migration, Faberge egg decorating, screen printing and embroidery. Or his business starts to rival Rose Apothecary. (Does Patrick still work at Ray’s? ‘Cause that would be awkward.)
  • Have I mentioned David & Patrick? I just need more of them always.

Schitt’s Creek returns to CBC in Canada on January 9th and to Pop! in the US on January 24th.

‘Jane the Virgin’ Season 4 Fall Finale

Let’s be honest, Jane the Virgin does not get its fair dues. This year, it has been relegated to Friday nights, paired with another show with a slightly off-putting title (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend). Admittedly, I was hesitant to watch either show because of their titles, but I’m glad I did. Both have consistently gone past their undermining titles to give us something truly beautiful and Jane‘s fall finale delivered on the foundation that makes this show so wonderful: mother-daughter relationships.

We were blessed this episode with a Jane-Xo-Alba road trip for Jane’s (two stop) book tour. It’s always wonderful to see stories with women supporting women and especially healthy mother-daughter relationships, but this one was even different from previous episodes. All of the Villanueva women are facing difficult situations: Jane is getting over Adam, Xo is annoyed with Rogelio and the baby, and Alba (as we discover) is running from Jorge’s proposal. They find strength in each other and their ability to confront the men in their lives which all culminates to a raucous night dancing in (and on!) the bar. It’s particularly heartwarming to see Jane support Alba, as her abuela is usually the one doing the supporting. The Villanueva women are the bedrock of Jane the Virgin. All the other aspects of the show would not be nearly as strong or likable if it wasn’t coming from this fountain of mother-daughter love and respect.

One mother-daughter relationship I was not expecting was the one between Jane and her late husband’s mother, Patricia. Patricia was not initially supportive of Jane’s book because she still blamed Jane for Michael’s death and as we’ve been with Jane throughout this whole story, we know how much she already blamed herself and the toll his death had taken on her. It’s a type of mother-daughter relationship that is too often demonized or made toxic in media so I was so grateful to see Patricia at Jane’s second book tour stop. It was clear that in the years after Michael’s death that they had both done a lot of healing on their own and were ready for forgiveness. Their tearful conversation packed the most emotional punch in the whole episode as they had a very real and honest talk on how Michael’s death affected them. They are two women who are linked by their love and grief of one man, a connection Jane can’t share with either Xo or Alba, and for them to come together after all these years was beautiful.

Back at the Marbella, we had a different set of mother-daughter relationships that are… less than healthy. Petra and Anezka have a strained relationship with each other and Magda and that was no more apparent than in this episode. After her “death”, Anezka watches her own funeral to see others mourning for her. Petra points out that their own mother has barely shed a tear for her dead daughter. Anezka goes undercover to talk to Magda to discover for herself what Petra warned her about. However, Petra wasn’t prepared for her own daughters to give away her thoughts regarding Anezka. It’s certainly painful to see Anezka try to defend herself to Petra’s 4 yr old daughters. At the same time, we rarely ever see Petra’s daughters so to hear that she confides in them regarding her relationships is kind of nice, even if it comes at the expense of Anezka.

Having the two sets of mothers and daughters shows a great parallel of how mother-daughter relationships can be. They can be toxic. They can be supportive. Ultimately, they are wildly complicated and challenging. We’ve been so blessed to have a show with women supporting women from the very beginning and Chapter Seventy-One reminded us what the series is all about.

 

Romance in “Schitt’s Creek”: The Queer Slow-Burn

Full disclosure: this post is more for me than anyone else. Enjoy. Also, massive spoilers for Schitt’s Creek season 3. As in, don’t even bother reading this if you don’t want to be spoiled.

Queer romance, especially for male-identified characters, is woefully lacking on television. In the 2000’s when the LGBTQ community was finding its footing in the TV landscape, the representation for queer men was only one of two options: hook-up culture a la Queer as Folk or celibate a la Will & Grace (not to mention how white these shows are). I watched Queer as Folk religiously and wished I could mimic that life, but alas, I lean closer to the chaste side, but in the middle nonetheless. I’m not alone as most of the queer community falls somewhere between those extremes.

There are quite a few queer relationships between men on television, but even fewer relationships that do not start with the characters sleeping together. Current media tends to lean toward the sexual side, opting to shock viewers with images of gay sex right off the bat. Yes, many of the relationships, regardless of beginnings, take the winding journey to a monogamy. Yet only three couples from recent shows come to mind in regards to a slow-burn: Alec & Magnus from Shadowhunters, Blaine & Kurt from Glee, Darryl & White Josh from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and David & Patrick from Schitt’s Creek. (There are more, but I haven’t seen all the television that exists. I know, shocking.) Even out of those, only one does not include a coming out storyline: Schitt’s Creek.

From the outside, the relationship plays out like a normal sitcom. David purchases the now-vacant general store and meets Patrick when he has to procure his business license. Patrick later offers to help David run the store since David clearly has no business acumen and Patrick is, as David says, “a business major who wears straight-leg, mid-range denim”. The relationship blossoms and it culminates to a lovely date on David’s birthday that ends with a kiss in Patrick’s car.

It’s a simple and straight-forward enough plot, but it’s still incredibly unique. And I’m obsessed.

David is sarcastic, self-centered, and materialistic in season 1 and… not much changes in season 3. However, we learn in the pilot that his friends back in New York have abandoned him since the family lost their money. They were relationships (friendships and otherwise) based in superficiality so it’s understandable to why David is emotionally closed off. The first person to break through that is Stevie who is David’s first genuine friend. Their friendship is hilarious and wonderful, despite the bumps along the way.

When David meets Patrick, he treats him coldly and defensively like anyone else in Schitt’s Creek, but Patrick is very clearly fascinated by David. You can see it all over his face. This one conversation tells you a lot about where Patrick is coming from. David is a rarity in Schitt’s Creek and certainly someone he’s never met before. At the end of their last scene in episode 8, the camera lingers on Patrick after David has left. Anyone who watches shows with queer goggles knew immediately that Patrick was gay. (Ex: I pointed and yelled at the screen, “That motherfucker is gay.”)

The thing is, David can’t tell Patrick is gay. His emotional walls prevent him from seeing Patrick as anything other than the guy at Ray’s. Patrick, to David’s credit, is playing this very subtly. He brings David’s business license that Alexis points out is framed. Hats off to Noah Reid, because in the simple stutter, “Actually, they… they come that way.” we know the frame means much more. Adding his crestfallen face after David rejects the frame as it’s too corporate for his brand tells you what kind of gesture Patrick meant to make it. This small moment sets up the progression of Patrick’s courage with David: any time he questions his romantic gesture, he stutters.

Back at the motel, Alexis hints to David that Patrick might be gay as he didn’t hit on her (which meant he was either newly married or that) and it’s not likely he’s only into the store concept. He usually dismisses her, but David takes this conversation to heart. He’s been so emotionally closed off from long before they were forced to move to Schitt’s Creek that it hadn’t been something he could have imagined. It also forces David’s idea of who can be queer to expand. While Jake (David’s season 2 fling) and Patrick are both more masculine men, we can assume that David is used to the kind of rhythm Jake brings: far away from everyone, secretive, and physical immediately.

The next day, Patrick comes to the store when David is alone. It’s in this scene where David smiles for the very first time around Patrick. It’s also a smile we’ve never seen before. It’s one of innocence and excitement. It’s a smile we can imagine David having in his teenage years with his first crush.

Meanwhile, there is nothing about Patrick that says he denying his sexuality or his attraction to David. Patrick’s admission of purchasing the frame is a flirting ritual we’ve seen numerous times in straight relationships on television. And like those couples, we are given the exact same kind of reaction. We don’t get any moody expository moment of Patrick being ashamed to divulge his identity to David. It just is what it is. They both know what is happening.

Every step through their budding relationship is a small one. Nothing about it is rushed. It’s romantic tension, not sexual tension.

In the season finale, Patrick takes David out for his birthday but David doesn’t realize it’s meant to be a date until Stevie points it out. David knows Patrick is interested in him, yet fails to put the two together. Prior to Patrick, it’s probable that David had never been asked out on a date. His reaction to Patrick’s gift is so sweet, the realization that this is a relationship that is starting out of romance instead of sex. Meanwhile, Patrick is smooth and confident… until Stevie shows up because David invited her. Obviously Patrick doesn’t oppose to being seen with David alone and he’s met Stevie. She’s seen them interact. But he stutters after her arrival. The nervousness is from giving an obviously sentimental gift to David on what he believed to be a date, a sentiment anyone can relate to.

The pinnacle of the finale is the car scene. As Patrick is dropping David back off at the motel, they kiss. It’s brief, but means so much to both characters. In the silence, you can see David weighing if that was the best decision, but we quickly learn that Patrick had been waiting for something like that his whole life. It’s his first kiss with a man and he thanks David. While this doesn’t seem like much, Patrick is not thanking David for confirming his sexuality. He’s thanking David for taking that final step. It would have been easy to slip this final conversation into something that takes us into Patrick’s coming out story. It’s a common trope in Queer From A Small Town. With limited options and opportunities, writers will often make this the experiment that confirms the character’s sexuality. But Patrick knows who he is without hesitation. This wasn’t a test if he liked David romantically, but if David had similar feelings. They slip back into their usual banter as David exits the car, but this time it’s infused with affection and excitement for what lies ahead.

And that’s where we’re left. There’s no lesson to be learned. No one randomly goes into a soliloquy about how hard their queer identity is. No one explains their sexuality. It is just two people who have mutual crushes naturally finding their way to each other. The show has allowed David and Patrick to be people, not props for a queer agenda or a “very special episode”, and it is so refreshing. We know they’re queer because it’s two men in a relationship. We don’t need to be hit over the head with it. It’s the slow-burn that mimics a reality for many queer people that hasn’t been represented. I’ve always been a romantic, so I’m so incredibly happy to see a relationship that looks exactly like what I want for my life.

Dan Levy has made a point in saying that he refuses to let David become a caricature of the queer community and I agree with him wholeheartedly. Not only is David not a caricature, but he defies many tropes of queer characters before him. David openly pansexual, an identity that has not been represented in media, and no one gives him any trouble for it. He doesn’t have an overabundance of casual sex like many bisexual portrayals. He comes out once and his sexuality is mentioned very little after that. We are here with these characters every week so we know who they are. David is so much more than a lesson in queerness.

If there is a lesson, it comes in the analyzation of the show: that queer romance has all the same tenets as straight romance. The butterflies, the nervousness, the uncertainty, the twitterpated heart, the joy. Queerness does not have to be centerstage in a queer romance. The center of romance is love and that is universal.

(Full disclosure #2: I was lucky enough to see a screening of the season 4 premiere at Vulture Fest this past weekend, so I know where they take the relationship. No spoilers because I don’t ever want to be on Dan Levy’s bad side, but I am positively exploding with delight. The whole episode is lovely and hilarious and I’m in physical pain that I can’t discuss it with anyone.)

Schitt’s Creek returns January 9th.

‘The Orville’ Review – ‘Old Wounds’ (Pilot)

Surprisingly, this is the first new show of the season that I’ve watched. Even more shocking was that it was The Orville, a sci-fi dramedy to the tune of Star Trek: The Next Generation created by and starring Seth MacFarlane. It’s about Ed Mercer (MacFarlane) who is given his first starship command and – surprise! – his ex-wife Kelly (Adrienne Palicki) who cheated on him a year prior is assigned as his first officer.

The episode is formulaic in the ways you’d expect: meet the captain, he’s given the ship, he meets his ragtag crew, there’s aliens who board the ship wanting the thing they’re supposed to deliver, they beat the aliens. If you’ve seen literally anything out of the Star Trek franchise, you know exactly how the episode is going to go.

There’s no hiding that this is a Star Trek… parody? When you call something a “parody”, I immediately think of all the fan-driven inside jokes and highly specific jokes one could make and The Orville didn’t really do any of those. Like I said, you know they’re referencing Star Trek. The whole show screams Star Trek. But there were barely any jokes referencing it. Perhaps the whole joke is, “Oh look, it’s Star Trek but with Seth MacFarlane.” In which case, the joke is on us.

I won’t hide it: I am not a fan of Seth MacFarlane. Family Guy is one of the worst shows I’ve seen in my life. Please do not make me watch American Dad or The Cleveland Show. I watched more episodes of Dads than anyone should have. (Six. I watched six episodes.) I am possibly the furthest thing from being a fan of MacFarlane. So it was understandable that I was going into this show assuming – like everyone else – that it would be Family-Guy-in-space. I was anticipating dick jokes, racist jokes, homophobic/transphobic jokes, sexist jokes, basically any joke that devalues someone who’s not a straight white man. And there were relatively few. There are still some (this is Seth MacFarlane we’re talking about), but not to the frequency I was expecting. I was bracing myself for what I believed to be a gunshot to the face and was merely a Nerf bullet. I actually laughed at a couple jokes. Really! I did! It was as unsettling as you would expect it to be.

While the jokes were generally in good taste, we can’t ignore how underdeveloped nearly every character other than Ed Mercer was. We learn little about his ex-wife Kelly other than she’s his ex-wife because she cheated on him and, in typical groan-worthy fashion, she still deeply cares about him. (You can smell eventual reconciliation from a mile away.) I want to give the show the benefit of the doubt in that it is the pilot and pilots tend to be a little wonky, but you would hope your co-lead would have as much character development as the other, right?

I was quick to say I enjoyed the episode, but I think it’s that I didn’t hate it like I thought I would. There was an unbelievably low bar set for this show and it cleared it. So I would rather say I’m understandably cautious about this show. It is Seth MacFarlane and we know where his humor typically strays. Plus, episode 3 is set to discuss gender identity which does not bode well. However, I believe The Orville could be halfway decent as long as it follows Star Trek‘s legacy of intrinsic faith in humanity. The Orville has a chance at being a good Star Trek knock-off.

Rating: C

Television Necromancy Needs to Stop

When Netflix announced they were bringing back Arrested Development for season 4, I was absolutely thrilled. My favorite show was reuniting once again to tell the story of the abysmal Bluth family and what has happened over the last five years. This is the show that I watch when I’m depressed. I met Mitch Hurwitz and didn’t get a full sentence out before crying. I’m considering an Arrested-themed tattoo sleeve despite my inability to get a tattoo without passing out. The Bluths were back, baby!

In the end, the season was fine. It wasn’t my favorite, but if someone says it was awful, I will defend it wholeheartedly. That is the hill I will die on. Arrested Development is a perfect binge show, so to release an entire season on the same day was genius. It was great to see where all the Bluths ended up, some in new and weird places, some exactly where we knew they’d be. I loved the small asides from the first three seasons that blown up into full plots. (Lindsay’s ostrich problem, anyone?) Most of all I loved that Michael was finally fully revealed to the audience as being a terrible person. How people missed that fact in the first three seasons is beyond me, but I’m glad everyone is finally on board.

It was not without its faults, the biggest being they were only able to get the whole cast in the same room for two scenes. I was thrilled by the fact every person on the cast was having a fruitful career post-Arrested. Many went on to other TV shows while some went on to direct and/or star in large blockbuster films. Yet I was still bummed. Part of what makes Arrested Development so appealing is the way all the family members bounce off each other. Some of the best scenes in the show are when most – if not all – of the cast is present. Alas, we had to make do with what the scheduling gods would allow. The way the season was structured was odd and confusing with each character being given one or two episodes as the main focus. It was hard for a lot of audience members to shift their moral compass from Michael to Gob to Maeby to George Sr. to George Michael.

I don’t watch season 4 with any of the regularity I do of the first three seasons because it feels, looks, and sounds different. It isn’t the show I had fallen in love with. The bitterness with which the show ended was now misplaced. When they were on the verge of cancellation, they devoted an entire episode to a “Save Our Bluths” campaign, pulling out all the tactics nearly-cancelled shows utilized when they clamored to stay on air, even going as far to literally say, “Please, tell your friends about this show.” The audience knew every line of that episode was of a ‘fuck you’ to Fox. Talk about going out in a blaze of glory.

But Netflix picked it up and made a fourth season, effectively neutering Arrested Development‘s hilarious, bitter, righteously angry conclusion. The original run of the show ends on a funny yet hopeful note. Ron Howard says, “I don’t see it as a TV show. Maybe a movie.” which insinuates the whole show was a huge mistake.

There’s no need for a bittersweet finale to say goodbye when there’s a revival. A show that was once dead, that was cancelled kicking and screaming, is now alive again, taking the ending’s genius and throwing it in a dumpster. By removing the emotional impact of the final episode, revivals are creating a television landscape that is anti-creativity, anti-industry, and disrespectful to the audience’s intelligence and emotions.

Before continuing, I would like to define “revival”. A revival is a show in which there are new episodes being created starring the majority of the original cast centered around similar recurring themes. These are sometimes marketed as “revivals”, “continuations”, or “sequels”. Revivals are about rehashing old character relationships, modernizing or updating situations, and creating nostalgia by the tons.

Instead of creating an entirely new season or “limited engagement” of a deceased show, some studios and creators opt for the two-hour movie, usually aired on TV only. TV show movies only count as revivals if the show had a planned ending (i.e. Psych) versus an unexpected cancellation (i.e. Firefly). A show that suffered an unexpected cancellation, such as the case of Firefly, is perfectly suited for a TV movie because there are plots and characters that were not allowed to finish as the story was not completely told. On the other hand, Psych knew season 8 was going to be its last so in this case the upcoming TV movie is considered a revival.

Revivals are not new to television. The very first revival of any sort in the United States occurred in 1977 with Sanford Arms, a revival of the popular show Sanford & Son. Most of the supporting cast appeared in Arms while the two lead actors declined on the project. Arms lasted 8 episodes, half of which never aired, before being canceled due to abysmally low ratings. (First of all time was BBC’s The Likely Lads revival, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? in 1973. However, for the purposes of this post, I will only be discussing the revivals of American television shows.)

Since 1977, only 26 shows have been revived in the United States, including those that currently greenlit and in production. Most revivals prior to 2000 had extremely low ratings throughout their entire run – if they made it to a finale at all. The “revivals” of anthology shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents… and The Twilight Zone had been relatively successful, but as anthology shows are ultimately a collection of smaller stories without a cohesive singular cast, they cannot be compared to the revivals that are happening now.

Tons of shows are receiving revivals: Will & Grace, Gilmore Girls, Roseanne, Twin Peaks, Mystery Science Theater 3000, The X Files, PsychFull House, Prison Break, Law & Order. Of the 26 shows revived in the United States, 13 have either aired (or will air) after 2016. Many revivals are taking place on streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu, where audiences can access the original content prior to moving on to the revival. These sites allow the audience to bathe in the original show as opposed to 20 years earlier when audiences would have to hope someone recorded episodes on VHS.

Unfettered access to streaming content allows audiences to fall in love with shows they may have missed due to age, time slot, or lack of recording devices. However, assuming a show’s new audience needs a revival is disrespectful to the audience as well as the creators. When a show is created, it exists in that time and place for a limited duration. It is a commentary and product of their time. When viewers watch a cancelled show, they are watching through a modern lens with the appreciation that this show occurred at an earlier time.

Revivals often call for modernization, yet shows approach modernization from the wrong direction. For example, in the upcoming revival of Will & Grace, Jack McFarland is shown to be checking Grindr, an app for gay male hook-ups. It reads like bad fanfiction. A character who stopped existing in 2006 is using a technology and app that exist today in 2017. How modern! But this isn’t the modernization W&G needs. When the show premiered in 1998, it was revolutionary to show gay characters on primetime television. In 2017, two lead gay white men who are made of the worst stereotypes of the gay community is not modern. It’s a step backwards. Nearly 20 years after the original show aired, W&G is regarded for its place in history, in bringing queer issues to primetime television, but the issues it once presented as controversial are now trivial and the show in and of itself has created its own issues in its representation.

Audiences are smart and capable of watching shows from other eras without the need to update it into today’s terms. A new audience watching W&G doesn’t need to see dated material revived into a shambling corpse with an iPhone. Reviving a show assumes the audience is too stupid to understand the time period in which the show aired and need new information. W&G  is appreciated for what it was at the time it aired and by bringing it back, we are eliminating the poignancy of its historical significance in the pantheon of television. It calls attention to the necessity of keeping a show in its time capsule.

Reboots and adaptations can combat this television necromancy. A reboot is a show in which a finished show is recreated with an entirely new cast within the same universe, and an adaptation is taking a source material and creating a show based on that material. Adaptations have a pre-existing mythos and universe, but they create a world that previously did not exist on television. Reboots retool original series and update them to be brand new. Adaptations and reboots can accomplish what revivals can’t, which is updating the source material without having to awkwardly continue a series that doesn’t belong in modern day. Battlestar Galactica is a great example of a successful reboot. Instead of continuing where the 1978 series left off, BSG recreated itself with modern concepts and ideas, especially considering the advancement of technology between the show’s original airdate and 2003. The BSG reboot was able to leave the original to exist as a product of the 1970s, with its own concepts and commentary, while taking the same characters and having them updated with current commentary. Erasing their history from the previous series and starting anew with a different cast prevents a disjointed and awkward transition.

Another issue is that revivals are anti-industry. In a reboot, the same characters from before are brought into the modern world and played by entirely new actors. By their very nature reboots have to hire new talent and expand the Hollywood circle. Reboots and adaptations create new opportunities for actors and writers (and sometimes showrunners) by gifting them with a pre-existing lovable franchise that will hopefully lead to original work jobs. Looking outside the United States, an example of a successful reboot is Doctor Who. I define the new series of Who as a reboot because, while the show is technically a continuation of the original series, it begins with a brand new cast, a brand new showrunner, resets the episode count, and still exists within the same universe as the original 1963 run. The world of Who is able to change and morph with new talent both in front of and behind the camera. As for adaptations, American studios are obsessed with making adaptations of everything and for the most part they hire talent that is different from the source material’s talent, if they exist to begin with.

Revivals inherently prevent new talent from entering the industry at a notable level. A revived show is rehiring an actor who was previously fired from their job for whatever reason. Shows end when the network decides it’s done, whether that is due to low ratings or an agreement with the showrunner. Putting a previously cancelled show in a broadcast time slot takes away an opportunity for new talent and new ideas to enter the industry. This especially puts creators at a disadvantage. According to the Wall Street Journal in 2012, the major 5 networks – ABC, Fox, CBS, NBC, & The CW – receive about 500 pilot pitches each year. That doesn’t include the amount of pilots written but not pitched. Then they order around 20 pilots. The odds are low for a show to make it to air, but they get lower when a network decides to side-step new series to revive one that has failed once before. Streaming sites are complicit in this problem as well. While they have a vastly different platform to show content, funding series is the same across the board. Studios and networks are happily passing over new content in order to pay cancelled talent because they know it’s easy money.

We’ve made it to the root of the problem: money. In the case of Arrested Development, a cult following emerged after its cancellation. Admittedly, I am part of that cult fandom. Its popularity only increased once Netflix acquired it for streaming and we learned it was a binge-watching show from its inception to catch and fully comprehend its complexity. Netflix noticed this as well and felt it needed to capitalize further. By creating a new season, they were able to get more money through new subscribers since the new seasons weren’t available anywhere else. They were able to re-brand and re-market a cancelled show with new merchandise and new profitable opportunities just like any regular network. Studios are more interested in their bottom line than looking at history: the majority of revivals have failed miserably. Revivals allow studios to do minimal marketing, minimal casting, minimal work into their shows so they can cost on the backs of fans without supporting the entertainment industry or truly servicing fans.

There is a special type of fan that carries a torch for a cancelled show. This fan still deeply loves this show that is dead and gone. Watching a season finale is an emotional experience. Many fans go through a grieving process when their favorite shows end. People often cite characters as being part of their family or having substantially changed their life. We say these phrases when we eulogize a loved one at their funeral. There is a point of acceptance when you realize a show is over. That’s it, there are no more episodes. In the case of planned endings, the story is complete in how the creators intended. There may not be resolution to some plots, but isn’t that life? By resurrecting a dead show as a revival, a studio ruins that grieving process. It takes away that emotional impact of a final episode because it is no longer the final episode. A show’s swan song is (often) beautifully crafted to say goodbye to its fans, its cast, its crew. Adding a revival cheapens that goodbye and makes it a coda instead of a finale.

Finales are some of the best and biggest moments in television. The series finale of M*A*S*H was the single most watched television program in history with 105.9 million viewers – beating every Super Bowl prior to 2010. People tune in to say goodbye, even if they gave up on the show seasons prior. They want to see how it all ends and what, of any, of their questions are answered. Shows go big or go home. They create moments that viewers will always remember them by. Weddings, prison sentences, returns home. These are ultimate defining moments in a characters life that are what everything has been leading to. What exists for a character after they have reached what they wanted – or what they deserved? After watching this character strive for years to reach this pinnacle, what else is there? The goal has been reached. The story has ended for that character – for better or for worse – and are often permanent decisions. 

The most permanent of all finale choices is death. For shows set in reality, a character’s death is irreversible. It affects all aspects of the show. You cannot eliminate a character’s death without fundamentally changing the finale of the show. Therefore, how does a Roseanne revival work? Dan’s death in the finale not only affects the characters, but is revealed as the primary catalyst for the whole show. The facts have changed; the entire world of the show exists in a different reality than what originally aired. How can a revival with the entire cast work if the characters are actually not who audiences originally fell in love with? More specifically, how do you eliminate Dan’s death without nullifying the finale? And how do you explain the revival episodes within the show’s canon when the audience is aware of the actual reality in the finale? The Roseanne finale is listed in TV Guide as the 9th most unforgettable finale. It made an indeliable mark on the television landscape and not allowing it to remain the finale robs the original run of its power.

Revivals have all sorts of good intentions. They’re there to allow people to feel nostalgic and enjoy characters they haven’t seen for a while. The new season however comes at the expense of the original show. Original content is how television and the entertainment industry will continue. Audiences should demand that the studios push new ideas, new concepts, and new creators instead of looking backward to ended shows for an easy buck. Television that takes risks pushes boundaries to make us better as artists and audience members, and it is ultimately the future of our rapidly evolving American culture. 

Stop the television necromancy. DEAD TV: Do Not Eat!

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