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Reboots and spinoffs of popular series are not new to the world of television but they seem bigger than ever thanks to streaming services such as Paramount+ and Peacock bringing back your childhood favorites. While the job of a reboot is to essentially update a popular form of media for a modern audience, reboots are often made with different audiences in mind. Some reboots are made to appeal to the children of the now-adult audiences who once grew up with the original series when they were kids. Some reboots are made solely for the now-adult audiences, having their characters and series situations grow up with the audience. Some reboots even try to balance both, being both geared to the now grown-up audience with more adult situations while appealing to their children with more child geared side stories.
‘Rugrats’ – The Reboots For The Children of Grown-Up Audiences
The first type of childhood reboots is the updated remakes that are still meant for children. These reboots are primarily meant for the children of the adult audiences who grew up watching the show when they were kids. The goal of this is for the adult to instantly recognize these characters from their own childhood thus letting their own children watch it. This is something they can bond over since the parents are already familiar with the world and the characters from their own memories of watching it when they were their children’s age.
This type of reboot can be seen with the new ‘Rugrats’ on Paramount+. This new CGI “Rugrats” is not the first reboot of the talking babies, that title belongs to ‘All Grown Up’, which aged up its characters to appeal to a middle school audience. This reboot, unlike “All Grown Up”, takes the audience back to square one, back before the characters Kimi and Dil were introduced, to when it was just the main group of babies. While this confuses many audiences who grew up with the show and remember these characters, this most likely means that the show is acting more as a remake than a reboot and will introduce these characters in later seasons. In doing so, the series is reintroducing the characters and situations to the parents while introducing these characters and their world for the first time to children audiences.
The ‘Rugrats’ reboot reintroducing children to the world of the series is actually a vast improvement from other reboots such as 2016’s ‘Powerpuff Girls’ reboot. This reboot, similar to the new “Rugrats” being geared to the children of those who grew up with the show back in the day, did not re-establish its world or characters which made it difficult for children to fully understand who these characters were. Who is this Mojo Jojo monkey who shows up as the butt of jokes? With characters not being properly reintroduced, this made newer audiences not feel engrossed in the world, and modern audiences claimed the cringey moments ruined their childhood.
While the new ‘Rugrats’ re-establishes everything from square one to welcome new audiences to the show, it also makes changes that actually please the adult fans who grew up with the show. One of these changes being Phil and Lil’s mom, Betty, no longer being married to the forgettable Howard and now being openly gay. While this pleases fans of the show who have always expected the woman who literally wore the feminist logo on her shirt to be queer, this is also a huge sign of inclusivity, making children with LGBTQ+ parents feel seen.
The series also has Susie Carmichael with the group from the start instead of introducing her later in the series as the original ‘Rugrats’ did. They also aged her down to be closer in age to the babies than to Anjelica which means that Susie can be more active in all the adventures rather than standing on the sidelines like she often did in the original. While she was originally brought in to be a foil to Anjelica, the queen of mean, she is now the smartest of the babies, often being the one to not trust Anjelica so easily.
‘Rugrats’ is the perfect example of the reboot of your favorite childhood show that is still geared towards children. It reintroduces the characters to new audiences while making changes that satisfy both older and newer audiences while keeping the same tone as the original series.
The Childhood Reboots For The Grown-Up Audiences
While there are many reboots of childhood shows meant for the modern child, there are many reboots that try to grow up with their now grown-up fans. This can be seen with Paramount+’s ‘iCarly’ reboot. As seen at the moment in the trailer where Spencer (Jerry Trainor) utters the word “damn”, the audience knows that this is a new kind of iCarly. With Jerry Trainor recently promising “sexual situations” in the reboot, audiences realized that this reboot will not have the same Nickelodeon rated G factor as the show they grew up with. This means that unlike ‘Rugrats’, the new ‘iCarly’ is not meant for the modern child but will instead be a sequel series rather than a reboot, showing the grown-up characters in grown-up situations.
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Many upcoming reboots of childhood shows are trying to appeal to their now grown-up audiences, trying to find the balance of relating to them while keeping the tone of the original series. The upcoming live-action reboot of ‘Powerpuff Girls’ is currently being refilmed, many claiming that a reason could be that the leaked script was noticeably struggling to do this. From the innocent Bubbles saying the word “slut” to Buttercup having multiple hookups, it was easy to see that the script went hard in the direction of “aging up our characters for our twenty-something audience”. Whether the new pilot will still head into this direction is a question for the future but either way, this is not the same ‘Powerpuff Girls’ that you grew up with on Cartoon Network.
While the new ‘iCarly’ leans toward more adult situations, it is easy to see from the trailers that it still keeps the same tone as the original series. From the laugh track still being present to the zaniness of the world still being present (Mary Scheer’s Mrs. Benson is returning after all), the show feels more like a continuation of the original series rather than an actual reboot or update. The series keeping the same tone, like other reboots, can also mean that the show will offer a lot of fan service to its now grown-up fans, from references to the original run to callbacks of previous characters.
The Reboots That Fall Somewhere In Between
There are many reboots that take from both types of reboots, being a mixture of both for the grown-up audiences who were once children watching the show and for the children of those adults. These reboots typically handle this by focussing on the grown-up versions of the characters, now with their own families. By focusing on the now grown-up protagonists, the show grows up with its now grown-up audience, offering the characters some more adult problems to face (or at least PG-Rated adult problems). By focussing on the families of these characters, mainly on their children, the series will also appeal to children audiences. This can be seen with the two reboots ‘Punky Brewster’ and ‘Raven’s Home’.
The 2021 update of ‘Punky Brewster’ follows Punky (Soleil Moon Frye), the now-divorced mother of three children as she adopts a young girl named Izzy (Quinn Copeland) who reminds Punky of the younger version of herself. This series is both a mixture of being made to appeal to the adults who grew up watching the original, following the adult situations the now grown-up characters land into, and is geared to the kids of the adults who once watched the original. The now-adult adventures of Punky from divorce and getting back into the dating scene, are meant to appeal to adult audiences. The children who once related to Punky’s troubles as a child such as going to school and getting locked in a fridge can now relate to the adult Punky’s troubles of being a single mother. Meanwhile, the adventures of Izzy, from getting to meet WWE wrestlers to losing her trademark hat, are meant to appeal to children the same way that Punky’s adventures did in the eighties.
The 2017 reboot of ‘That’s So Raven’, ‘Raven’s Home’, is similar to ‘Punky Brewster’ in the way it tries to appeal to both the adults who grew up with the show and their children. ‘Raven’s Home’ follows the now grown-up Raven (Raven-Symone) and Chelsea (Annelise van der Pol), both now divorced single mothers who are raising their kids on their own. Like the now-adult Punky’s similar adventures of being a single mom, Raven and Chelsea’s stories are meant to appeal to the grown-up audiences who once grew up watching their misadventures as kids. Meanwhile, Raven’s tween son, Booker (Issac Ryan Brown), also has psychic abilities like Raven, and goes on tween misadventures similar to the ones Raven once went on. Booker’s adventures are meant to appeal to the kids of the adults revising the show, giving them the same type of adventures that their kids once watched, similarly to what Izzy does in “Punky Brewster”.
The Future of Reboots
With the popularity of reboots for television with both children and adult audiences, it can be easy for people to complain that there is nothing original anymore. If there is nothing original anymore then what will they have left to reboot? Reboots of reboots? While this can be easy to see, it is also important to point out that reboots are nothing new in the entertainment industry, from constant reboots of ‘King Kong’ and ‘Godzilla’ since their creations to the constant spinoffs that dominated television in the seventies. If these current remakes can either let adult audiences relive their childhood and be able to share their shows with their own children, then maybe the future of reboots will lead to some positive memories like the original series once did.
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Brianna Benozich is a writer for The Hollywood Insider and a stand up comedian. With a background in screenwriting, she believes that every good story relies on character, story, and themes. Brianna believes that these components, especially with comedies, can start necessary conversations and even open the minds of the audience. She strives to bring attention to underrepresented and overshadowed films and television series which align with the core values of Hollywood Insider’s mission to provide meaningful and compelling stories.