Reboot Says Boomers and Zoomers Need to Find Middle Ground

Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Reboot.Hulu’s new sitcom reboot is the story of worlds colliding. When the writer Hannah (Rachel Bloom) is attempting to reboot a cheesy sitcom called step to the right to give her a modern, cynical touch, the show’s former showrunner, her father Gordon (Paul Reiser), steals the reins and tries to force things back into hackneyed but familiar territory. This battle between old school and new school becomes a recurring conflict, with Hannah and Gordon often squabbling over whose approach will produce a more successful TV show.

Things come to a head in an episode titled “Growing Pains” when Hannah and Gordon each hire a writing team that fits their unique ideas about the series. Hannah hires a diverse group of bright twenty-somethings, and Gordon brings in a group of snotty-mouthed veteran comedy relics. After some headaches, both groups of writers find common ground in an unexpected and unintentional fall from Hannah, which makes her laugh and breaks the icy tension in the room. The bottom line here is that both generations of comedy writers have something to learn from each other, but is this simply a sitcom lesson in the style of Gordon’s cornball writing, or is it an applicable truth for our deeply divided modern times?


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Not okay, Boomer

“Growing Pains” makes audiences believe two things about off-color comedy: it can make a workplace uncomfortable, but it tends to make sitcoms funnier. When Reisers meets Gordon Hannah’s new writing team, he introduces himself in his typical easy-going, insensitive way. Seeing a room full of multiracial young people, he asks himself aloud, “This one of you is a diversity internship training course?” Although the new writers are visibly upset, it’s clear that Gordon isn’t intentionally trying to upset them; he just belongs to an older generation of comedy writers who don’t mind being careless or insensitive, especially when there’s a laugh. Classic sitcoms are no strangers to cringe comedy, awkward situations, or dumb characters who say horrible things. Both beloved versions of The office gained popularity for their hilarious but deeply awkward sense of humor. So this early moment in “Growing Pains” could be a litmus test for how successful the episode’s thesis is overall. If the viewer is offended on behalf of the new authors, the idea of ​​striking a middle ground between wakefulness and insult would be insulting in itself. If the viewer thinks the joke is about Gordon making a buffoon of himself and instantly walking on the wrong foot in a room full of new employees, they might find it a little more agreeable. The key to the scene depends on whether the viewer agrees with Gordon’s first comedy lesson: “Misunderstandings: always funny.”

Upon hearing the new authors’ testimonies, Gordon replies, “What? No Eskimos?” to the new author Benny (Dan Leahy) replies “literally gasping for air” without literally gasping for air. This is a wonderful blend of comedic sensibility, containing both Gordon’s raunchy Catskills comedy and a bit of modern comedy’s playful irony. There’s something weird about someone saying “literally gasp” out loud instead of just gasping, which is similar to someone saying “cook kiss” out loud without just making the sound. Here we see the well-defined generation gap between very funny online jokes that are gently fun (but careful not to hurt) and the brazen, balls-on-the-wall approach of Mel Brooks. reboot seems to think that either take could benefit from being toned down by the other, and uses Gordon’s take on older comedy writers as a vehicle to show this.

The trio of sitcom veterans is coming along George Wyner‘s Bob announces, “Good morning! Delivery of Jews R’ Us!” followed by his cohorts, who also hurl salty one-liners. The young writer Azmina (Kimia Behpoornia) looks at Hannah pleadingly as if she were a child who needs support from her mother. Though Hannah complains to Gordon about the older trio, her complaint isn’t that they’re too abusive or against waking up; it’s that they are “dinosaurs” and that their age will put the brakes on the modernity of the comedy show they aim to create. This is an interesting semantic distinction reboot and episode writers John Quaintance make. Often, modern progressive morality, especially on social media, determines whether someone is a “good” or “bad” person based on the words they use. Expressing unpopular opinions or speaking in an outdated or offensive manner is considered a valid reason to write off a person altogether. Even in Joseph Campbell‘s The hero with a thousand faces, long considered the go-to book on storytelling and myth-making, the author acknowledges that a hero’s journey is typically a coming-of-age tale, because going from an ignorant innocent to a world-weary but knowledgeable adult is one very common and deeply human experience. Campbell suggests that children label people as good or bad because their simplistic worldview allows them to only see things in a black-and-white binary relationship. He claims that part of The Hero’s Journey is transforming into an adult who acknowledges that all humans, their actions, and their morals exist in an intricate web of shadowy shades of gray.

Falling down on similarities

Whether it was meant as a reference to The hero with a thousand faces or simply an indirect way of distinguishing between bright young people and obnoxious “boomers,” the episode’s core debate focuses on the value of a person’s age and how that value relates to one’s comedic sensibilities. You can see the willingness of the young authors reboot Writing off Gordon and the “dinosaurs,” as Hannah calls them, and treating them as helpless others who are too determined to change. You can also tell that the older writers tend to be nonchalantly tacky because they laugh the most at the comedy style and don’t feel like changing something that has brought them success before. In the end, both sides of the disagreement find common ground in Hannah’s accidental pratfall, which sends the room roaring with laughter. Hannah gets up to leave, stating that the writers room will never be functional because no one can agree on what’s funny, and trips over a garbage can, completely undermining the seriousness of her own reasoning. After the long stressful day of disagreements, the writers can’t help but catch a case of giggles. Eventually, on that common ground, they see themselves not as an obstacle, but as like-minded people with whom they can disagree, but perhaps also learn from them.

Of course, this lesson does not apply to every situation. Finding a middle ground in the real world is often a rhetorical fallacy suggested by malicious actors who are gradually shifting the Overton window to human rights abuses and fascism. Who would want to find common ground with someone trying to destroy it? but reboot‘s Lesson can be helpful for both modern comedy writers and veteran comedy writers. Rather than write off another generation entirely, perhaps it’s best to see different styles of comedy as the result of unique lived experiences, just as young people try to appreciate everyone’s diverse personal identities. There’s nothing that says a person needs to laugh at every joke or type of comedy, but sharing a few laughs with acquaintances and family members from different generations might help viewers if they stay reboot‘s lesson on the middle ground in mind.

reboot launches new episodes every Tuesday on Hulu every week. Reboot Says Boomers and Zoomers Need to Find Middle Ground

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