Reboot: Three-Episode Premiere Review — “Step Write Up,” “New Girl,” and “Growing Pains”

The reboot will premiere with three episodes this Tuesday, September 20 on Hulu.

The reboot may be super late to the game when it comes to meta-squaring Hollywood, but its winning ensemble and crackling wit help it stand out as one of the better efforts in this realm. It’s clever, surprising, and manages to juxtapose some of the different tones well. It’s both adult and cartoonish at the same time, making for a good hearted Removing Streaming Wars / Rebooting Games.

Comedy guru Steven Levitan (Modern Family, The Critic, The Larry Sanders Show) brings a mix of humor, heart, and vulgarity here, taking a swipe at the TV business amid the rise of the streaming giant and how data researches and drives metrics. Watching projects, casting, and just about everything that happens on screen. Reboot just means enough without tipping over the edge. It presents flawed characters, but not ones that push you out of investing. It doesn’t break the rules, it bends them. And its cast – including Judy Greer, Keegan-Michael Key, Johnny Knoxville, Rachel Bloom, Paul Reiser, Christa Marie Yu and Callum Worth – are exceptional.

The reboot tackles a trend that has become increasingly popular in the streaming age: revamping/refreshing a beloved old family sitcom, and it’s got a killer angle (that won’t totally spoil it here). Bloom’s “edgy” writer Hannah has such a close connection to an early-aughts sitcom, Step Write Up, that she wants to bring it back with a darker, more pungent take for Hulu (enter Hulu dubbing in self-parody ). Unfortunately for him, Reiser Gordon, the creator of Step Right Up, is also legally involved and his generational take on “new funny” versus “old fun,” “smart” versus “corny” (plus a few other personal issues). The mayhem provides the comedic centerpiece for the reboot.

The returning actor, who is now nearly two decades away from his hit show, serves as the rest of the food, with Keys Reed being the self-important “actor” in the group, Knoxville’s Clay as the abandoned standup comic, and Greer’s Brie. The 40s actress is crazy about her age. Granted, these all feel like stock characters on paper. But reboot practices increased their use of clichés, giving these three their “where are they now?” allowed to develop more. The gags have been wonderful stories all of them, with Reed and Bree’s pre-and-re-set romance being a big focus. Each of them are given hangups and vulnerabilities that have hidden goodies because the reboot is so much more than a one-gag series.

The first episode, “Step Write Up” (each one is given a title for a sitcom, including the fake it), focuses on the set up and playing back the original actors… only for them to locate Gordon. And for the edgy that Reed was excited about, he is in danger of being overly compromised by traditional sitcom humor. The second episode, “New Girl,” features a Hulu stunt—a reality star (Elijah Chanel Scott’s Timberly) as the lead of a new series, but, in keeping with the show’s MO, no one here. It’s not wasted to laugh. Makes everything get more complicated – and fun. There are some really stubborn moments.

The third installment, “Growing Pains”, follows a writer’s room trying to establish a groove to the show despite what constitutes a joke. By this point, as a viewer, you may have learned that no one is as bad as they first appeared and that righteous people have flaws and the potential to grow into perceived villains. The reboot has just the right amount of cynicism to the business. Meta-lampooning about the biz often goes too far with lewdness and it ultimately hurts the laughs. Here, we find people working their lives through (sometimes ungrateful) producing a sitcom and, in turn, asserting that life follows some pattern of a sitcom. The reboot, as its name suggests, doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it weaves a very funny story.

Although not as meta, the hacks share some DNA here, from the perspective of the old guard versus the new guard. And also as both a celebration and a condemnation of the industry. And like the hacks, most of the reboot’s vulnerable bits are saved by the actors themselves. key is found to play a excess A better version of his actor character from Netflix’s The Bubble (a low, brutal look at Tinseltown), while Greer is, as always, phenomenal. And in addition to the main cast, Kerry Kenny-Silver, Eliza Coupe, Fred Melamed and George Wiener also come out to play. Step Write Up’s in-show revival may have found a middle ground between edgy and corny, but so does the reboot itself. This is a great trick.