Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of TV critics two questions and publishes the results on Tuesday. (The answer to the second, “What is the best show currently on TV?” can be found at the end of this post.)
This week’s question: In light of the recent “Roseanne” revival news, which sitcom would you like to see a revival of? (Let’s assume this is feasible from a network, talent, production, etc. standpoint.)
So many great sitcoms are personality driven, which makes it hard to remember great premises worth reviving. (And also, when I think about some of my ‘90s favorites, like “Step by Step” or “Friends,” it’s like… Oh, maybe there’s nothing new under the sun.)
But, beyond my eternal wish that someone would remake “Almost Human” as an adorable rom-com about Karl Urban and Robot Michael Ealy falling in love and raising a family together — and also the dream of somebody reuniting the cast of “Trophy Wife” — I’m going to go with “Alf.” Hilarious puppet-driven comedy has been sorely missed from our airwaves (“The Muppets” only proved to be a cruel tease last year). The only person who wouldn’t like this idea is cats.
Can I answer “none”? All of these reunions are bad ideas. All of them. Even the ones with occasional good moments or even episodes are bad ideas. Great TV shows are a product of a specific time in the lives of the creators, the characters, and even the audience. Change those variables, and something will feel off at best, and make you question the original’s quality at worst.
I’m half tempted to wish for a one-shot “Cheers” reunion, just to see that gang one more time, but that show ended perfectly, and even if everyone reassembled, it wouldn’t be the same. Let it go, Indiana.
In Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary,” Jud Crandall observes, “The soil of a man’s heart is stonier, Louis. A man grows what he can, and he tends it. ‘Cause what you buy, is what you own. And what you own… always comes home to you.” I’m not exactly sure what it means, but I definitely understand another thing Jud says: “Sometimes dead is better.” Like has anything Roseanne done in the past 25 years made you think, “Wow, this is somebody whose perspective I need to have back on my TV”? If so, blessings to ya. But I have not. I also didn’t need “Coach” to come back. I didn’t need “Full House” to become “Fuller House.” I have no excitement about “Will & Grace” coming back. And occasional moments of inspiration aside, the fourth season of “Arrested Development” proved only partially necessary at best. Almost always… Dead is better. So like… If you force me to answer… Ummm… I want “Undeclared” to return as a comedy about the same characters still trying to make their dreams come true in their late 20s. Is “Undeclared” really a sitcom? Dunno. But if you get that cast and those writers back together, I’m always there for it. Oh and “Method & Red.” If I can’t get a DVD release for the first season, I’d take a second season instead. I’m sure Method Man and Redman can make the time and if you can get some of those writers — Lord & Miller, Bays & Thomas, etc — that’d be great. So that’s my final answer: “Method & Red.”
OK, I am not a fan of rebooting shows that had nice long lives in the first place. They had their time, the cast is enjoying the residual checks and DVD royalties. Move on. Let’s start rebooting shows that had great potential and short lives. Like Fox’s brief but terrific “Pasadena.” It premiered a few weeks after 9/11 and it was just not the time for executive producer Mike White’s dark, edgy and subversive murder mystery about a Hearst-ish Southern California media empire. Only four of the 13 episodes produced aired at the time (the full series ran years later on SoapNet) but there was so much to love and latch on to, including an incredible cast led by Dana Delany, Martin Donovan, Balthazar Getty, Mark Valley and Alison Lohman — who are all pretty much available. In this era of social media, “fake news” and infotainment, how great would it be to return to the idyllic streets of “Pasadena” to see how these newspaper folks are misbehaving and in what nasty new corners they are hiding their dirty little secrets these days?
And if not that, then for god’s sakes, will someone reboot “Small Wonder” and make it the anti-patriarchy feminist cyber-comedy it was meant to be?!!
Nostalgia demands I see a remake of “Cheers,” as most all of the cast is still alive, and given the scope of Woody Harrelson and Ted Danson’s acting range, which at the time “Cheers” was a huge new shiny hit was an unknown. Not to mention John Ratzenberger’s great turn on FX series “Legit” revealing a side of his comedic talent too I loved.
But no! Psych! Mid-paragraph I take it back and say, “Laverne & Shirley,” dammit. These two were my favorite beer-making single ladies of yore. Anyone who knows the song is aces in my book: “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” Can anyone resist the magic of Penny Marshall’s Laverne De Fazio and Cindy Williams’ Shirley Feeney? Add to that the heady duo of Michael McKean and David Lander as Lenny and Squiggy? One of my favorite all-time classic American sitcoms despite the fact I hate beer in any form. In my mind I see an older Shirley Feeney organizing the Milwaukee women’s march while Laverne shames Shotz brewery into underwriting the pink pussy hats for the marchers.
I wasn’t ready for “Parks and Recreation” to end, and I’d be 100 percent on board with a revival, providing that Mike Schur and the original cast signed on. I’d love to find out what happened to Leslie and Ben before the time jump, how Ron Swanson is faring as the boss of the Pawnee National Park, whether Donna is still having Treat Yo Self Day (you know she is). I’d take a whole April and Andy show. In fact, I’d take a whole show about any of my “Parks and Rec” favorites. I’d take a reunion movie. Don’t make me write fan fiction, guys.
I just want “The Grinder” and “Don’t Trust the B– in Apt 23” back, but if those are too modern to count, then looking back at the TV archives it has to be “Seinfeld.” Always. Especially since it’s also a show that can easily exist in any time. And while I do feel pretty appeased by “Curb Your Enthusiasm’s” seventh season, which saw a quasi-reunion that brought back the original cast and alluded to what a real reunion might have been like, I still want a full-fledged return!
Can I say nothing? Because this revival epidemic needs to stop. Things end and that’s OK. It’s also OK to want more of something and not get it. That’s how things remain special, for better or worse. That being said, gun to my head, I’d revive “Doug” because 1) it’s animated, so it’s not on the same scale as live-action and 2) 25 years later, I still think about Quailman’s eighth day of the week, Funday, often and I need it to be a real thing.
This is a tough question, because the word “situation” is so crucial to the success of most situation comedies. It’s tough to imagine the self-obsessed crew of urban yuppies at the core of “Seinfeld” anywhere other than the go-go ‘90s, for example. Usually, any sitcom that managed to cash out with a credible finale and lots of fan love should probably be left to its well-deserved spot in TV heaven (hint, hint, new “Roseanne” producers). But if forced to choose, I’d go with “Everybody Loves Raymond,” because they so expertly nailed married life with parents, and I wonder if they could do the same with Debra and Ray as an older couple. I’m also curious about “Sports Night”; given the recent upheaval at ESPN, there seems to be no better time to revive a comedy about how screwed up a cable sports channel can be (and how cool would it be to see Josh Charles and Peter Krause on the same show together again?). And I’d love to see “Living Single” revived as a comedy about women of color of a certain age, with a “Sex and the City”-style swag to it – complete with Queen Latifah, Kim Fields, Kim Coles and maybe some new additions like Aisha Harris or Niecy Nash. Talk about something you never see on TV these days…
“Happy Endings,” “Party Down,” and “Trophy Wife” remain top priorities in terms of necessary revivals, but using “Roseanne” as a springboard implies we’re talking about “successful” sitcoms, not cult or critics’ favorites. Continuing that line of thought, I’m going to choose a big show that doesn’t need to come back so much as it could come back and play well: the ’90s MTV cartoon sitcom, “Daria.” Considering the comedy highs derived from the inherent angst felt by a horde of hilarious teenagers (not to mention their favorite show, “Sick, Sad World”), now seems like the perfect time to return to Lawndale. Daria, Jane, and the Morgendorffers could provide much-needed perspective on our current American culture, making the terrifying live-action world palatable without removing us from the resistance. Plus, the setting is timeless, the characters are, too, and “Daria” is exactly the kind of pre-Golden Age show that would’ve played even better in today’s TV landscape.
My real answer to this question is “Cheers,” which has such an elastic premise that it could conceivably run for the rest of time, so long as it kept switching up the cast every few seasons in the way the original did. (That was a secret to its longevity.) Bring it back with Ted Danson and a handful of the original folks, then toss in a few new characters and slowly switch the cast over from season to season.
Except maybe Norm and Cliff are always there.
But I assume everybody else picked “Cheers,” so I want to make two other suggestions: “NewsRadio” and “Taxi.” “NewsRadio” is genuinely one of the great, unsung sitcoms of all time, and I really think that if you reassembled that crackerjack cast (okay, maybe minus a couple of its bad eggs), they’d be having just as much fun in 2017 as they were in the ’90s. It’s one of my favorite TV shows ever made, with lightning fast dialogue and terrific characters, who are all funny opposite each other. Bring back “NewsRadio”!
“Taxi” might be even more interesting. First of all, you could bring back the core handful of characters, like Alex Rieger and Reverend Jim and Louie de Palma and so on. But after that, you could mix in the competition from ride-share services like Uber and Lyft and have a sitcom that’s not just blue-collar but an actual look into how tech industry disruption is impacting people’s lives. With a live studio audience laughing about it! Sitcoms are one of the places where America feels safe discussing class issues, and Taxi is accidentally relevant in that regard. It could be labor vs. capital, the sitcom, complete with Danny De Vito occasionally coming in to fume at everybody around him. I love it already.
Other contenders: “The Handmaid’s Tale” (three votes), “Dear White People” (two votes), “Fargo” and “Silicon Valley” (one vote each)
*In the case of streaming, the show must have premiered in the past month.
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