‘Reboot,’ Hulu’s New Comedy About Hulu Rebooting a Sitcom, Hands Weaker Scripts to Stronger Cast: TV Review

Reboot,' Hulu's New Comedy About Hulu Rebooting a Sitcom, Hands Weaker  Scripts to Stronger Cast: TV Review

‘Reboot,’ Hulu’s New Comedy About Hulu Rebooting a Sitcom, Hands Weaker Scripts to Stronger Cast: TV Review

‘Reboot,’ Hulu’s New Comedy About Hulu Rebooting a Sitcom, Hands Weaker Scripts to Stronger Cast: TV Review

It stands to reason that “Reboot” is immediately an entertainment biz turducken of industry lingo and in-jokes. From “Modern Family” creator Steven Levitan, the new Hulu series depicts the reboot — also airing on Hulu — of a family sitcom and all the behind-the-scenes drama that inevitably follows. Levitan, whose credits include “Simply Shoot Me” and “Wings,” clearly feels comfortable around a multi-cam, and his pilot co-writer John Enbom made a meal in “Party Down” of exploiting the seediest corners of Hollywood ambition. The combination of the two sensibilities makes for a (mostly) realistic peek into life on a studio lot, but that’s probably a given. That it ends up (mostly) toothless comes as a genuine surprise.

Premiering with three episodes on Sept. 20, the series opens with harried millennial Hannah (Rachel Bloom of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) getting the green light to revive the seemingly ordinary ’90s sitcom “Step Right Up.” It’s a strange career choice after getting so many accolades for her short film “Cunt Saw,” but nevertheless, Still up in the air to get it going. With unique maker Gordon (“Distraught About You” alum Paul Reiser) and cast — pompous Reed (Keegan-Michael Key), outgoing Bree (Judy Greer), wild card Clay (Johnny Knoxville), and grown-up child actor Zack (grown-up child actor Calum Worthy) — on board due to a lack of anything better to do, both the reboot and “Reboot” can get down to the business of making a perfectly fine show, week in and week out. It would have been easy to turn “Reboot” into a “Modern Family”-style mockumentary given its conceit, but the fact that Levitan and Enbom resisted that urge is honestly refreshing.

Reboot: Hulu Drops Trailer For Steve Levitans Show-Within-A-Show - best  celebrity news

All these actors — as well as guest stars Fred Melamed and Rose Abdoo as Gordon’s veteran TV writers — have proved time and again that they’re extremely capable of delivering a line with a unique spin, and have often been the best parts of whatever project is lucky enough to have them. The same holds true here, with Greer especially seizing the chance to make her every scene a memorable one. Also deserving of a special mention is Krista Marie Yu (“Last Man Standing”) as Hulu’s young VP of Comedy and Alyah Chanelle Scott as the recurring “new girl” who makes a quick case for why she should be a series regular instead. Key and Knoxville are particularly good when their characters give in to their baser instincts, as is Blossom in the uncommon minutes when she doesn’t need to invest all her energy being the chide to Reiser’s looser chief.

For all the show’s smart performances, though, the scripts with which they’re working seem less assured of their direction. This clash comes most to the forefront in the relationship dynamic between Gordon and Hannah, who are not just bickering coworkers, but (SPOILER ALERT) estranged father and daughter. As actors, Bloom and Reiser make for a great comedic pairing; as characters, Hannah and Gordon too often get stuck in a loop that gets old, fast. Hannah in particular becomes more of a service to the plot and a “millennials vs. Boomer” divide in the writers’ room than the person that the pilot promised. Why would the woman who wrote “Cunt Saw” stick with a sitcom that, per the fragments of “Come forward” scripts we see her and the authors concocting, rarely pushes the original version’s boundaries? Does she actually have any jokes beyond her desire to address Real Issues, or is Gordon — the clear Levitan facsimile — almost always right? “Reboot” seems to change its mind with every passing episode, making it hard to get as fully invested in either character as the conceit requires.

Most frustrating, though, is how each episode alternates between mocking the “sitcom” humor of shows like “Step Right Up” while revealing its figures of speech totally. A show that, for example, tries to make fun of clichés but still makes someone laugh at an oblivious statement before stopping with an “oh, you’re serious?” feels more confused than confident. In going out of its way to poke fun at “dramedies” without zingers (“It’s both the most clever thing you’ve at any point perused and you won’t chuckle once!”), “Reboot” gets itself positioned for expecting to improve, but only occasionally does.

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