Millennial Nostalgia: With the Return of Heroes, What’s Next?

If Heroes can come back, what other properties from the '90s/'00s could (or should) get another shot? Jason has a few ideas...

Despite the recent presence of RoboCop in theaters, it seems as though a baton has been passed and a transition has begun. ‘80s nostalgia is on the way out, and ‘90s/early aughts nostalgia is on the rise. Just take a look at the upcoming Boy Meets World “reboot” Girl Meets World, a new Jurassic Park film, the rumored Space Jam sequel, the Point Break remake, and, perhaps most notably, the return of Heroes that’s on the way. Personally, this puts me in an odd place. As someone born in 1982, and who binged on TV and movies throughout their childhood and teens (and my 20s and so far my 30s), I’m too young to be a Gen Xer and too old to be a Millennial, so in essence, I’m both, and I’m neither.

This gives me and others in my age group a slightly peculiar perspective and the privilege (or the burden) of sitting through two go-arounds of reboots, reimaginings, and long delayed sequels. As we approach this moment where a new generation is about to see the precious baubles of their youth get a new coat of paint and repackaged, we thought it might be interesting to ponder the reboot possibilities of three projects that have been impactful to the millennial generation while also touching on the value of remakes.  

Freaks and Geeks

Freaks and Geeks understood the paper epicness of young love and the awkwardness of the hellish layover between childhood and adulthood, but the show couldn’t catch a break, meeting its end after just 18 episodes. Created by Paul Feig with creative contributions by Mike White, Judd Apatow, Jake Kasdan, and a cast that included James Franco, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen and other luminaries, the memory of Freaks and Geeks is still carried by a fervent group of fans despite the passage of nearly 14 years since its last episode.

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One of the shows that was often mentioned during the (theoretical) resurrection gold rush that swept across the internet following the successful and remarkable Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign, a literal Freaks and Geeks reunion movie would seem to make a lot of sense, but it will likely never happen. While something like this would typically be scuttled by actors that have graduated to bigger and better things, this time, it’s actually the behind the scenes team of Apatow and, to a fuller extent, Feig, who have initiated the kibosh, with Feig telling the LA Times:

“I’ve never seen a good reunion — in real life or on film. There’s always something that’s wrong. Half the time, you’re just thinking, ‘Oh, look how old they are.’ […] It’s just fear. Plain and simple fear. Too many pitfalls. Never say never. I love them all. But we’re probably best served leaving the past behind.”

With the words, “Never say never”, Feig offers the show’s fans a small glimmer of hope. Is it possible that time will turn those embers into a blazing fire that might light the way to a revisitation of the reunion idea in a few years? People’s attitudes change, but that would line up nicely with the McKinley High students’ 20th anniversary, meaning it would be the perfect fit for a bit of double barreled turn-of-the-millennium nostalgia.

Why this needs to happen: A “sequel” made for all the right reasons, these long suffering fans deserve closure more than most.

Tiny Toon Adventures

The burst of excitement following the rumored and then quickly quashed LeBron James starring Space Jam sequel got us thinking about the Looney Tunes and their “brand,” which is without a flagship program now that The Looney Tunes Show is off the air. While Bugs Bunny deserves placement on the toon version of Mount Rushmore, and while the characters will likely exist as recognizable figures for generations to come, the fact remains that there is a difference between being recognized and being relevant. For years now, the Looney Tunes have struggled to stand out in a crowded marketplace that no longer sees kids devouring Merrie Melodies cartoons as a part of their daily intake.

Back in the mid ‘90s, Warner Bros. revitalized the Looney Tunes with Space Jam, but that couldn’t have happened without Tiny Toon Adventures, a syndicated after-school cartoon that centered on younger offshoots of the established Looney Tunes characters. Consigned to re-runs  in perpetuity after a three year run of 98 episodes and a few specials, Tiny Toon Adventures now airs on The HUB Network beside it’s sister series, Animaniacs. While the hippest of millennial born parents may find the show and force their kids to watch it over the latest Phineas and Ferb, the new generation of saplings need something more.

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The question is, would a Tiny Toons reboot be too damn clever for the current Saturday morning crowd? The original show (like Animaniacs, which also needs to come back in some way) stood apart from its Disney-crafted competition thanks to the awareness built into its tone. Darkwing Duck is its own majestic flower, tucked in between the pages of the scrapbook of my youth, but the pop culture humor unleashed by Tiny Toons let it be known that Steven Spielberg, Tom Ruegger, and the other producers and writers had no interest in talking down to their audience. Such dedication is rare when the audience is the grade school set, but even as an Animation Domination or Adult Swim staple, Tiny Toons could accomplish its goal: revitalizing the Looney Tunes by association while entertaining nostalgia drunk parents and children who will one day rule the earth thanks to their superior intellects.

Why this needs to happen: The world needs funny cartoons (and I mean hand drawn) with rabbits, ducks, and pigs. If something like this insured that, it would be worth it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer 

What on earth happened to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer reboot? Back in 2010, writer Whit Anderson dared to take Warner Bros. up on the chance at her dream job, drafting the script for a fresh take on the Buffy franchise. Uninvolved in the proceedings, Joss Whedon kept things mostly classy with his public remarks while others associated with the landmark show voiced their displeasure over the prospect of a new Buffy movie. Naturally, this stoked the fires of a fandom that had undeservedly turned Anderson into public enemy number one while rejecting the idea of a Whedonless Buffy.

A year later, Anderson was off the project and the very idea of bringing back Buffy receded into the mist.

Presently, it seems as though there are no active plans for another Buffy project, but the fact is, the rich mythology that Whedon built up beside the dynamic and heroic Buffy Summers could, theoretically, support a spin-off or soft-reboot. Perhaps one that featured some of the “potentials” (Felicia Day’s “Vi”, as an example) as they embarked on their own slayer stories with the occasional pop in from a familiar face. We’re on the cusp of a Heroes reboot with the promise of new characters and the potential to revisit some of the old characters. If that can work for that show, surely it could work for a show like Buffy. The question is, will it? If the previous attempt proved anything, it’s that Joss Whedon would have to give his blessing to any continuation or reboot of Buffy (or any of his other projects) and Whedon’s most recent thoughts on the matter seem quite clear. He is against it.

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Here’s Whedon on the possibility of more Firefly and Buffy from an interview he did with EW last September.

“I have often said I would love to get the crew back together. There’s another side of that. There’s the Monkey’s Paw fear of even if it’s just as good, it won’t be as good, because it will be just as good, and it’s already been new, so you won’t have that. Now everybody is like, “Are you going to remake Buffy? Are you going to Kickstarter?” My blanket answer is “No.”

Why this needs to happen: Maybe it doesn’t, here’s another bit from Whedon where he questions the nature of nostalgia.

“It’s very important that we start creating new content again. We can only build on nostalgia so much before we have nothing left to build on. Before we’re rebooting Spider-Man—again. It’s dangerous to the culture, and it’s boring to me. I squeezed in between my Avengers movies a 400-year-old play. So I really need to create some new worlds.”

Whedon’s viewpoint is interesting and one that has clearly matured over time, but is he right?

As the baton is passed and as studios and creators begin (or continue) mining the ’90s and the aughts for things to remake and explore, it almost seems incumbent on the past generation to pray that the next wave has more restraint while also urging people to be less protective of these things.

Remember, this isn’t The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, these remakes don’t absorb and erase the originals…unless the originals are subject to the whims of a serial meddler who tries to paste a new version on top of the old (Hi, George!). We can have both, or we can have the original, or we can even have the new one.

De Palma’s Scarface is a remake. Cronenberg’s The Fly is a remake. The Christopher Nolan Batman films are the products of a reboot that, despite my affection for Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film and its vital place in my childhood, I will admit is better. Is anyone going to argue that Captain America: The First Avenger and the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier aren’t superior to Albert Pyun’s unfortunate 1990s Cannon Films version of Cap’s story? Sometimes, things can be improved upon, sometimes new audiences find a timeless story through a new access point, and sometimes our culture is enhanced by these things. People can be inspired to create by new takes on old things, especially since all the new things are, even in a small way, at least inspired by the old things.

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The challenge is in finding a balance and sniffing out the ones that are made for all the wrong reasons. Like all things, it seems that reboots can be healthy in moderation, but the one thing that isn’t healthy is hoarding your baubles, and shouting at anyone who tries to give someone else their own precious memories with these renewable tales.

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