I’m a huge fan of Hulu’s Reboot.
Initially, I didn’t know what to expect. The series focuses on a producer (Rachel Bloom) who wants to reboot an early 2000’s sitcom called Step Right Up with, in a meta twist, Hulu. She manages to wrangle the original cast members — Keegan-Michael Key, Johnny Knoxville, Judy Greer, and Calum Worthy — largely because they’re not really doing anything else. Plus, original producer Gordon (the great Paul Reiser) shows up to safeguard his original vision. On the surface, the concept feels, as my daughter would say, “mid,” but the combination of Modern Family‘s Steven Levitan coupled with an amazing ensemble piqued my interest.
I burned through all eight episodes because the show offers so much more than the plot would suggest.
The cast members play together brilliantly, particularly Judy Greer and Keegan-Michael Key as former lovers returning to their heyday. Their chemistry, their line delivery, and their rapid-fire and lived-in exchanges drive much of the material. Greer, in particular, is completely on fire in this series, often given incredibly silly but truly funny site and physical comic gags. She’s often the best aspect of any show she’s in. Reboot is no exception because Judy Greer can do anything. Calum Worthy plays the child star that never really grew up with an overprotective mother. He gives a sweet performance steeped in just enough naiveté to be funny and not cloying. Knoxville is, in a bit of type-casting, plays the troubled former star struggling to return to respectability. His performance reverts the bad boy stereotype, and he continues to prove, given the right material, he can be a very good actor.
These all seem like sitcom archetypes, but Reboot plays with them in interesting and unexpected ways. There are lots of surprises within the show, and the meta sitcom twists and turns feel authentic and earned.
As warring producers, Bloom and Reiser also work well together. Their relationship forms the unexpected undercurrent of the series, a take on old school versus modern, “woke” (sorry) comedy. There are writers room scenes within this series that are amongst the funniest I’ve seen all year. Refreshingly, the different perspectives are both treated with simultaneous respect and derision, a natural and much-desired combination for comedy. But it’s within this world that Reiser truly excels, giving one of his very best performances as the brutally honest, intelligent, and deeply flawed Gordon. Reiser always feels like one of those actors audiences take for granted, but here, he reminds us just how very funny and experienced he is in the world of television comedy. It’s a brilliant performance amidst an outstanding comedy ensemble.
If there’s any downside to the series, then it’s how strange and vaguely ill-fitting the series feels streaming on Hulu. Levitan’s footprint is all over this series, and it feels and looks like something that should have been on ABC. Each episode is paced at around 25 minutes like a network sitcom. Granted, the language takes advantage of the looser streaming guidelines, but I do wish the series had taken more chances and liberties with its streaming berth. But I guess that’s where we are now, and that’s where most things are headed. Can’t fight progress.
Hulu’s Reboot drops three episodes today.