Nostalgia is Bigger Than Ever, but Maybe It’s Time to Move Forward Rather than Looking Back? (Opinion)


RoseanneIronGiantABC / Warner Bros.

This might be veering into Neil Turitz territory here, but I’ve been seeing another trend that seems to not be going away, and that’s the almost feverish desire by movie studios and television networks to capitalize on the growing need by audiences to escape into the past i.e. nostalgia.

On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying things that you enjoyed when you were younger, and when it comes to music, nostalgia drives many a music career. In fact, I still follow many bands and artists that I enjoyed as a teenager, but I’m just a big old man-child anyway.

This past Tuesday, Roseanne, one of ABC’s most popular shows ever, returned to the network. A few days later Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One opened with the promise of returning the filmmaker to the greatness he achieved in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s… although let’s face it that even Spielberg’s more recent “failures” are still pretty decent.

Based on the premiere episode alone, Roseanne is already looking to become one of ABC’s biggest hits in years with 21.9 million viewers and an astounding 8.2 rating. Obviously, fans of the original show wanted to see more of Roseanne Barr and the Conner family, including the returning John Goodman and recent Oscar nominee Laurie Metcalf. Frankly, I never watched the show when it first aired, so I had absolutely zero vested interest in this revival, but that wasn’t the case across the nation. ABC has already renewed this revival for a second season.

Meanwhile, Spielberg’s Ready Player One is also doing very well, and it’s mainly being sold on the pop culture references that Ernest Cline inserted into his popular novel and the adapted screenplay he wrote with Zak Penn. Many of those references are the type that only someone with the clout of Spielberg could make happen. I will be the first to admit that I was seriously stoked when I saw one of the references that plays a large part in the movie, as well as another character that also plays upon my own sense of nostalgia. (Don’t worry, I have no plans to spoil either for you.)

reayplayeroneirongiantWarner Bros.

The Roseanne revival wasn’t the first of its kind, as it followed Netflix bringing back The Gilmore Girls, Full House and One Day at a Time as new shows featuring the characters from yesteryear. (One Day at a Time revival was also renewed for a third season this past week.)

There’s also Will and Grace, one of NBC’s popular ‘90s shows that was recently revived with the same cast of characters. That’s also proven popular enough to be renewed for a 2nd season… or rather, a tenth season, because we can’t disregard the original eight seasons. (in fact, when that Will and Grace series was announced, Neil Turitz came up with a bunch of joke ideas for shows that could get made, and I’m surprised none of these have actually happened yet.)

YouTube Red is hoping its new series Cobra Kai, starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka reprising their roles as Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence from the popular 1984 movie The Karate Kid, will bring more people over to the premium streaming network.

We’re constantly hearing about other networks wanting to resuscitate and revive once popular shows, and one of the more recent instances was that Nickelodeon wants to reboot Clarissa Explains It All with star Melissa Joan Hart now playing the parent, because two decades has passed since she was the teen with all the problems.

Maybe that isn’t the breaking point or the straw that broke the camel’s back, but there’s this domino effect happening where every popular TV revival will just lead to half a dozen more.

Nostalgia isn’t a brand-new thing as it may have been one of the driving factors for Disney to buy Lucasfilm in 2012, making the very lucrative decision to continue the Star Wars movies long after George Lucas stopped showing any interest of continuing the story. Universal’s success with Jurassic World is another example of mining nostalgia to great success as that film did to revive the franchise. Other attempts haven’t been nearly as successful, even if the aftermarkets for Anchorman and Zoolander made it seem like a good idea to revive those characters in sequels. (The former was more successful than the latter.)

I can understand why people like seeing the actors and characters they love returning, but there’s a certain point where many actors and filmmakers just want to move on and not constantly be reminded of their past triumphs.  Sure, some of them are more than happy to go on the nostalgia circuits that are comic conventions to meet their fans and sign autographs, but maybe I’m one of the fans of the original Star Wars trilogy that didn’t need to see senior citizen versions of those characters.

In my opinion, nostalgia can be fun, but too much of it can be a bad thing. It’s basically the same thing as making endless sequels or rebooting franchises, because it’s catering to what worked before in hopes that it will work again. We’ve seen far too many sequels fail after waiting too long to make one, something I’ve already written about, so the latest trend to reboot television shows and movies in hopes of similar success is going down a road that will eventually lead into a dead end.

As they say, money talks, and this new trend is just one bad revival or reboot away from a backlash, because nostalgia only works when it’s done well. We’re also living in a world that’s constantly changing and evolving and when the things we love from the past don’t change accordingly, it makes us realize how dated some of our childhood favorites actually are. Sometimes, nostalgia is able to live up to our memories, but even as a regular defender of reboots, it’s easy to understand that old movies and television shows can still be watched… without needing them to be revived.

Let us know what you think about nostalgia and whether it drives your own personal viewing choices in the comments below.

  | East Coast Editor

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