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TV review: 'Reboot' lovingly satirizes nostalgic streaming Hollywood

1/5
From left to right, Judy Greer, Keegan-Michael Key, Johnny Knoxville and Calum Worthy star as the cast of "Step Right Up." Photo courtesy of Hulu
From left to right, Judy Greer, Keegan-Michael Key, Johnny Knoxville and Calum Worthy star as the cast of "Step Right Up." Photo courtesy of Hulu

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- The only thing better than all our favorite shows coming back is the satire of that reboot phenomenon. Reboot, premiering Tuesday on Hulu, both satirizes and celebrates the return of classic TV shows.

The fictional family sitcom Step Right Up was a hit in the early '00s. Hannah (Rachel Bloom) pitches a reboot to Hulu, but reassembling the cast is complicated.

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Reed Sterling (Keegan-Michael Key) left the show to pursue serious drama, after breaking up with co-star Bree Marie Jensen (Judy Greer). Clay Barber (Johnny Knoxville) has had scandals making him less family-friendly.

Child Star Zack Jackson (Callum Worthy) has grown up, but not matured. And the creator of Step Right Up, Gordon (Paul Reiser) has ideas for the reboot that conflict with Hannah's.

Comedies about Hollywood go back to the heyday of The Larry Sanders Show, Entourage and 30 Rock. Reboot is as astute as the best of them, but has the modern Hollywood landscape as its material.

Though Step Right Up never existed, we can see the amalgam of all the rebooted shows we've watched in the last 10 years. Fuller House, Roseanne/The Connors, Will & Grace and even the less successful Murphy Brown and Mad About You all attempted to update their show for modern audiences.

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The nostalgia jokes are apparent to viewers. Even with a fake show, they play upon the same feelings that made real-life revivals a phenomenon.

But Reboot also deals with the writing and making of Step Right Up. Here, Reboot offers unique insight from people who make these shows for a living.

Creator Steven Levitan has yet to reboot any of his shows. However, as a writer and producer, it's clear he's well aware of the kinds of conflicts that would complicate a revival more than an original show.

For example, there's the history of the cast with which to contend. Then there are the conflicting visions of the original and new writer.

But Reboot also loves reboots, so it is not mocking them. The show assumes Step Right Up has fans who love it and deserve a quality reboot, if the talent can come together and make it.

Hulu is a good sport about playing itself as a streaming service that green-lights shows. Krista Marie Yu plays the fictional executive Elaine Kim, whose career is riding on Step Right Up.

Since Step Right Up didn't exist, Reboot makes new viewers more welcome than they might feel with an actual revival. Reboot shows just enough of the original show to understand the material, its appeal in spite of cliches, and the history of the characters.

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Reboot is an insightful, hilarious take on the television industry today. Whether you're tired of reboots or love them, Reboot uses the nostalgic phenomenon for a lovingly meta commentary.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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