PS Picks: Skewering the Sitcom Reboot With 'Saturday Night Live'

PS Picks is a selection of the best things that the magazine's staff and contributors are reading, watching, or otherwise paying attention to in the worlds of art, politics, and culture.
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Sitcom Reboot.

Sitcom Reboot.

This PS Pick originally appeared in The Lede, the weekly Pacific Standard email newsletter for premium members. The Lede gives premium members greater access to Pacific Standard stories, staff, and contributors in their inbox every week. While helping to support journalism in the public interest, members also receive a print magazine subscription, early access to feature stories, and access to an ad-free version of PSmag.com.

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'Sitcom Reboot': As networks scrounge for content, and Netflix seemingly accepts anything that comes its way, we have now entered the era of the television reboot: Roseanne, Murphy Brown, Wings, Fuller House, potentially The Office. Like our politics, TV comedies have gone all-in on nostalgia. Cue "Sitcom Reboot," a Saturday Night Live sketch originally written in 2009 but re-scripted for 2018, that skewers this phenomena. In the sketch, host and co-writer John Mulaney, playing the show-runner of a body-swapping 1980s comedy set for reboot, quickly terrifies an interviewer, played by Cecily Strong, as he reveals the politics of his old show. (Itself over 40 years old and reliant on the wistful memory of its past "golden years" for continued success, SNL might not be the natural show to target TV nostalgia, but it works nonetheless.)

In a sense, all sitcoms traffic in a type of nostalgia: in service of sympathetic humor, they essentialize the topical quirks of daily routine—say, swiping on a dating app, texting obsessively—and reduce existence to an already-familiar greatest hits of generational anxieties—online dating, impersonal communication. And yet, reboots, as this sketch properly exposes, are especially grating. Rather than simply exaggerating reality into something less-than realistic, they insist upon pasts that never were and often don't deserve to be. In taking the reboot to its absurd extreme, SNL cleverly, albeit vulgarly, re-affirms the truth that not all cultural artifacts deserve renewed attention.

This PS Pick originally appeared in The Lede, the weekly Pacific Standard email newsletter for premium members. The Lede gives premium members greater access to Pacific Standard stories, staff, and contributors in their inbox every week. While helping to support journalism in the public interest, members also receive a print magazine subscription, early access to feature stories, and access to an ad-free version of PSmag.com.

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