When the trailer for Hulu’s new series, Reboot, premiered, it seemed to be perfectly set up to tackle the sitcom reboot culture that we’ve been witnessing for the past 5 years or so. And for the first few episodes, it does just that.
The show follows Hannah (Rachel Bloom), a 30-something writer who just had her much-talked about edgy film come out, C*ntsaw. She pitches Hulu on rebooting the cheesy sitcom Step Right Up with the original cast (Kegan-Michael Key, Johnny Knoxville, Judy Greer, and Calum Worthy) and giving it an edge. The show is picked up, but then it’s discovered they have to bring on the show’s original creator Gordon (Paul Reiser), who has a penchant for sitcom cliches.
The premise is funny in itself, before taking a turn by the end of the pilot as we discover that Gordon is Hannah’s estranged father. The reason she wants to reboot his show is because the show is based on his second family, the one he left her and her mom for. She’s looking to base the reboot on his first family, and what it was like once he left.
For the first few episodes, the show is a pitch-perfect send-up of the reboot culture. From dysfunctional and more or less washed up actors to pairing up Hannah’s new hip writers with Gordon’s old school writers to bringing in a reality show by way of stunt casting. By itself, it would’ve been a sharp and well-written satire of that whole culture.
By the fourth episode, the show settles in to becoming less about satirizing reboots and more about finding its groove as potentially the funniest behind-the-scenes view at TV comedy since 30 Rock. All of the egos and the subsequent ego-massaging, the ridiculous set-ups, and the real world interfering with the fictional world plotlines are also on full display here.
It would’ve been very easy for the show to keep the line in the sand drawn in the writers room between the old school and the new school. But by episode four, they manage to gel together perfectly, which leads to hands down the funniest moments within the show. In particular, there is a discussion in the fourth episode about lesbian sex that would’ve been totally out-of-touch and offensive in literally any other series. But Reboot somehow gets away with it, with hysterical results.
The relationship between Gordon and Hannah also manages to evolve by the fourth episode. While the first three episodes bring forth a lot of conflict between their differing tastes in comedy, episode four finds Hannah trying to tell her dad that she’s gay, before he tells her that he’s known. Even while they were estranged, he still read all her press to keep an eye on her. From that moment on, they manage to sort of embrace what each other brings to the table, and explore a tender moment amidst the most ridiculous situation possible.
That’s when the show really works best. When it puts aside sending up reboots and focuses more on the former relationship of Key’s and Greer’s characters, Hannah and Gordon, Worthy and the rest of the cast that seemed to never make an effort to get to know him, or the old school and the new school of writers.
It winds up becoming this entirely different thing than what you signed up for, and has assembled a stellar cast to pull it off. But that’s alright, because the end result is equally as hilarious, if not more so. Creator Steve Levitan takes what would’ve been cliche in most other situations, and instead delivers one of the funniest shows we’ve seen this year.