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In serial fiction, the term "reboot" signifies a new start to an established fictional universe, work, or series. A reboot discards continuity to re-create its characters, plotlines and backstory from the beginning. It has been described as a way to "rebrand" or "restart an entertainment universe that has already been established".
Another definition of a reboot is a remake which is part of an established film series or other media franchise. The term has been criticised for being a vague and "confusing" "buzzword", and a neologism for remake, a concept which has been losing popularity since the 2010s. William Proctor proposes that there is a distinction between reboots, remakes and retcons.
The term is thought to originate from the computing term reboot, meaning to restart a computer system. There is a change in meaning: the computing term refers to restarting the exact same unaltered program, while the term discussed here refers to recreating a new version of the old program. The first known use of reboot applied to an entertainment franchise was in a 1994 Usenet posting.
Say you’ve had 187 issues of 'The Incredible Hulk' and you decide you’re going to introduce a new Issue 1. You pretend like those first 187 issues never happened, and you start the story from the beginning and the slate is wiped clean, and no one blinks. One of the reasons they do that is after 10 years of telling the same story, it gets stale and times change. So we did the cinematic equivalent of a reboot, and by doing that, setting it at the beginning, you’re instantly distancing yourself from anything that’s come before.
Reboots cut out non-essential elements associated with a pre-established franchise and start it anew, distilling it down to the core elements that made the source material popular. For audiences, reboots allow easier entry for newcomers unfamiliar with earlier titles in a series.
In comic books, a long-running title may have its continuity erased to start over from the beginning, enabling writers to redefine characters and open up new story opportunities, allowing the title to bring in new readers. Comic books sometimes use an in-universe explanation for a reboot, such as merging parallel worlds and timelines together, or destroying a fictional universe and recreating it from the beginning.
With reboots, filmmakers revamp and reinvigorate a film series to attract new fans and stimulate revenue. A reboot can renew interest in a series that has grown stale. Reboots act as a safe project for a studio, since a reboot with an established fanbase is less risky (in terms of expected profit) than an entirely original work, while at the same time allowing the studio to explore new demographics. Reboots also allow directors and producers to cast a new set of younger actors for the familiar roles of a film series to attract a younger audience. Unlike a remake, however, a reboot often presupposes a working familiarity on the part of the audience with the original work.
A related concept is retooling, used to describe a series that substantially changes its premise while keeping some of the core characters while the series is still running, usually in an effort to forestall cancellation.
Reboots are common in the video game industry. Reboots in video games are used to refresh the storyline and elements of the game and to take advantage of technology and features not available at the time of earlier entries.
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In a lot of ways, a remake and a reboot are similar concepts. They are both brand-new versions of previous movies. However, "reboot" is more commonly used for film franchises, while "remake" is more often used for stand-alone movies.
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Newhart is that rare beast in the TV world: a show where all of the retooling paid off because the producers were keenly attuned to what was and wasn’t working on their show.