The Dangers of TV’s Love Affair with Nostalgia
It’s been said that there’s nothing new under the sun, and that certainly appears to be the case for television. We are living in a world of remakes, reboots, and spin-offs the likes of which the television landscape has never before seen. From revamped Muppets to “unauthorized” exposés of shows like “Beverly Hills 90210,” the small screen is dripping with nostalgia. Among the recycled shows currently airing or in the works are “Heroes,” “Twin Peaks,” “MacGyver,” “Girl Meets World,” “Full House,” “The X-Files,” “Charmed,” “Xena: Warrior Princess,” and “Married with Children.” And that is just the tip of the iceberg. Faced with such a long litany of reboots it’s hard to know whether we should laugh or cry. Grownup fans of shows like “Full House” and true believers who mourned the end of their beloved “X-Files” have shown overwhelming excitement for the return of these shows, but when the anticipation is over and the hype has abated they may find themselves being more careful about what they wish for in the future. It should be no surprise that in an era of “throwback Thursdays” and constant Facebook reminders of our “memories,” many of us want to crawl back into the warm cocoon of television that helped shape who we are today. It’s comforting to revisit a show that reminds you of your childhood or helped you expand your view of the world, but rehashed stories don’t give us the chance to discover anything new. And, lest we forget, every one of these shows was originally cancelled for a reason. Does our nostalgia for the days of yore blind us to the reasons these shows burned out in the first place? In a quest to recapture some of the wonder and innocence of the past, we may end up forever tarnishing what made these shows special to begin with. With so much at stake, here are three reasons why the past should stay in the past — no matter how tempting it is to resurrect it. 1.Time travel is bumpy: The shows that really capture our imagination and affect our souls resonate with what is currently happening in the world: they are products of their times. What made many of these shows so iconic was their commentary on the wider world. Times have certainly changed, and some of these shows might not be able to keep up. Transporting the characters of the past to the world of today is tricky business and, if not handled properly, could end up tainting the memory of the original show. 2.It’s lazy: Television networks need to make money and apparently this nostalgic parade of reboots is bringing in the cash, but it doesn’t seem like they deserve it. The whole idea of a recycled lineup of shows sort of seems like giving up. If viewers can see through the half-hearted effort of networks to come up with new, original programming, then the advertisers can’t be far behind. I hope they wake up soon and start demanding some creativity and originality for their dollars. 3.It puts us in a holding pattern: Television is about more than simple entertainment. It is a way to discover new perspectives and witness experiences that are different from our own. At its best, TV provokes thought and discussion and broadens our horizons. Nostalgia makes us feel warm and fuzzy, but it doesn’t challenge our worldview. In a time where so much is changing, television has an opportunity to be important. By throwing out upcycled remakes of the same old ideas television is stunting the growth of its audience. The glut of recycled shows coming down the pike should be cause for alarm. It’s time to rethink our cultural obsession with nostalgia and demand smarter, more inspiring, original content.