TV

A Revived ‘Mad About You’ Doesn’t Have To Be A Retread


TV reboots seem like blatant nostalgia plays, but what if that’s not always the case? Can we consider the possibility that a finale doesn’t always mean that there’s no more story left to tell and that maybe all that’s needed is a little time away to find a new, interesting creative direction?

If rumors about a Mad About You reboot are to be believed, then that may be what series co-creator and co-star Paul Reiser is thinking. What’s the internet thinking? Let’s say it’s a mixed bag. Mad About You, while a clever and charming look at the ’90s love story of Paul and Jamie Buchman (played by Reiser and Helen Hunt), didn’t occupy as prominent a place in the zeitgeist as previously rebooted shows like Full House, Will & Grace and Roseanne. The series has also been off the air for 18 years without much in the way of widespread rerun exposure on basic cable over the last decade. So there’s a little bit of “Why bother?” alongside the nostalgia sickness and the typical accusations about Hollywood being devoid of original ideas.

If Sony (the studio behind the series) is interested in a Mad About You reboot to capitalize on the legions of Buchmaniacs, and if they’re watching the internet as a gauge for whether or not they should take things to the next level, then this project may not see daylight. This isn’t a guaranteed slam dunk like those other shows. The curiosity factor won’t be as strong. But after reading Reiser riff on the possibility of exploring an empty nest angle in an interview with People magazine (from October), it’s clear that he’s got more to say about couplehood after nearly 20 years away from these characters and 20 years of change in the world of television.

Marriage seems to be something TV characters run toward, run away from, or tolerate. The push and pull of a married life isn’t, for whatever reason, represented all that often. And when it is, it’s usually beholden to tropes that divorce these relationships from reality — like the dim husband or the shrill wife. Mad About You, on the other hand, strayed from convention and smartly portrayed a marriage of equals. The show also took risks by running Paul and Jamie through rough periods in their relationship (the struggle to conceive, career difficulties, the temptations of infidelity, and a brief break-up) and times when they were unlikeable. This wasn’t a perfect TV couple, and it made them all the more compelling. In hindsight, it also made the show ahead of its time, possibly positioning it for a successful second act in a moment where (some) scripted comedies are allowed (and often expected) to focus on story, go to heavier places, and not always hunt for the laugh line.

Maybe Mad About You 2.0 wouldn’t be a sitcom savior for NBC like Will & Grace. Maybe it would fit better as a premium cable or streaming service show like Transparent. There are certainly more avenues for shows that don’t take aim at a broad audience or which don’t neatly fit into categories now, and a Mad About You with a focus on a couple in their fifties trying to re-learn how to live and love together after their kid moves away feels like it could be hard to categorize. It also feels like that approach might free Reiser to tell this new story with the original’s more real and risky moments in mind while, at the same time, bringing the Mad About You‘s thoughtful and relatable approach to the less-explored later stages of marriage. Wouldn’t that be something? A reboot predicated on challenging audiences to embrace familiar characters on an unfamiliar adventure as opposed to just showing them running in place in updated wardrobe with a smartphone in their hand.

Here’s hoping Mad About You defies the snarky expectations that reboots past have saddled it with while resisting the urge to ever give us an episode about Paul and Murray III getting lost because Paul can’t figure out how to order an Uber.

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