Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The unfortunate trend of rebooting popular childhood shows

The new reboot of Disney Channel’s ‘Wizards of Waverly Place’ is the newest addition to the bandwagon of rebooting popular childhood shows, whether the audience likes it or not
Photo courtesy of Fuller House’s IMDb page.

On Jan. 18, Disney announced it is bringing back one of the most beloved Disney Channel shows, “Wizards of Waverly Place.” It was announced that David Henrie, who played Justin Russo, will return as a series regular while Selena Gomez will guest star in the first episode. It is centered around Justin Russo and his family, not all the characters that we knew and loved in the original show.

The reboot for “Wizards of Waverly Place” is only the latest addition to the bandwagon of popular early ‘90s and 2000s children shows being revived. Over the past couple of years, we have seen a movie reboot of “Zoey 101,” an “iCarly” reboot that garnered three seasons, a 2020 reboot of “Saved by the Bell,” a reboot of “Full House” — “Fuller House” — and countless others.

These shows stood the test of time as they are continuously rewatched on different streaming platforms. Because they all still have fanbases decades after the shows stopped airing on television, the providers of these television shows are ordering their reboots. Sometimes the actors are all too excited to return, and sometimes we see actors do everything they can to distance themselves from the reboot.

“iCarly” aired from 2007 to 2012 on Nickelodeon, and about a decade later, was brought back by Paramount from 2021 to 2023 before being canceled after its third season. Miranda Cosgrove, Jerry Trainor and Nathan Kress reprised their iconic roles, while Jennette McCurdy decided not to, something she has publicly spoken about several times. McCurdy, who played Sam Puckett, was an integral piece of the show and because she wanted to leave the past behind her instead of returning to it, the show had to write around her absence.

“Zoey 101,” “iCarly,” “Wizard of Waverly Place” and “Full House” were wildly popular shows of their time, making the actors of these iconic shows still mostly associated with their roles. All of them had series finales that satisfyingly ended their runs and gave their characters a happy ending.

The only way to bring back a show is to mess with that happy ending to create some sort of conflict. The audience goes from seeing their favorite characters get what they have been fighting for the entire series, to watching the characters take 10 steps back and have their happily ever after snatched away from them all over again.

The 2000s teen drama show, “Gilmore Girls,” ends with the main character, Rory Gilmore, finally getting the journalism career she has been working towards for the entirety of the show. But the show was then rebooted in 2016, where Rory is failing in both her career and personal life, the complete opposite from where the audience last saw her. The audience spent seven years rooting for her, but the reboot tore down everything she worked for.

As much as the audience loves these characters and wishes that there were more to show, we then realize what getting more actually entails: it means their happy ending is no more because it is the only way to create enough drama for the new show.

A lot of the time when shows are rebooted, not everyone is on board with that idea and fan favorites of the show don’t end up returning. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen never reprised their iconic character, Michelle Tanner, in the “Full House” reboot. After the show ends, people want to believe that the entire Tanner clan stay close forever and that nothing can ever break this seemingly unbreakable family — but the reboot shatters that illusion.

The Olsen twins don’t return to the show and “Fuller House” feels like it is missing something integral to the show, as does “iCarly” with McCurdy’s absence. Michelle Tanner barely seems as close to the family as she did during the original show because she doesn’t return for any notable events in any episodes, an incredibly out of character action.

While rebooted shows have to say something to acknowledge a main character’s absence, it never seems fits with the image of how the characters we knew would act. This also feels much worse when they decide to kill off the character because the actor did not return. Any of the options destroy the nostalgia created from the original, making the best option to not even bother with a reboot in the first place.

This central feeling towards reboots can be seen when you look at the reviews. The “Zoey 101” reboot, “Zoey 102,” has a score of 56 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and “Fuller House” has a score of 67 percent on IMDb. Other reboots, like “iCarly” and “Saved by the Bell,” end up getting canceled after only a few seasons because they aren’t performing well enough, as most are not well received by the audience.

We have yet to see what will come from the “Wizards of Waverly Place” reboot, but based on what we have seen from other reboots of popular childhood shows, it may be safer to just leave the past in the past. Let these shows stay where they belong instead of ruining the nostalgia we all have from them.

Mary DeCarlo can be reached at [email protected].

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