How to Tell Whether It's a Reboot, a Spinoff, a Prequel or a Revival

Everything You Should (Already) Know About All of Fall's New-Old TV Shows

By Najib Benouar ·

Everything old is new again.

Nothing more so than that very quote.

So, in the spirit of all the new-old shows coming back for the first (or second-ish) time to television this fall, we’re trudging through the backlog of I.P. to suss out what's what when it comes to whether you'll be watching a reboot, spinoff or some vexing amalgam like the prequel-spinoff. And what you should (already) know about these shows. 

The Tick (August 25, Amazon)

Where You’ve Seen This BeforeOriginally a cartoon by Ben Edlund in the late 1980s that became a television cartoon in the 90s. And Fox already attempted to make a live-action sitcom in 2001. It lasted one season. 

What You’ll See This Time: The Tick is a send-up on your typical anti-superhero. He enlists a well-meaning accountant dweeb as his sidekick. Hijinks ensue.

So, it’s a.... Reboot.  Which means you don’t really need to do any homework, though the 90s cartoon was pretty great if you can dig it up. The Fox series just showed up on Crackle. So, yeah, there’s that.

Star Trek: Discovery (September 24, CBS)

Where You’ve Seen This BeforeYou know, it’s Star Trek.

What You’ll See This Time: They're still in space doing Star-Trek-y things. Well actually *in well actually voice*, this series is set 10 years before The Original Series which was filmed in the 1960s and set in the 23rd Century.

So, it’s a.... Prequel. Live long and prosper, y’all. (Did I do that right?)

Young Sheldon (September 25, CBS)

Where You’ve Seen This BeforeThere’s no way you’ve avoided contact with The Big Bang Theory at this point. But, just in case you’re not on a first name basis with the characters, Sheldon is the main quirky-neurotic super-genius. (The tall one.) (Seriously, stop pretending like you don’t know what we’re talking about.)

What You’ll See This Time: We were all kids once. CBS knows that. And they’re going to ride this weird, extremely lucrative wave as long as they can. Hence, Young Sheldon.

So it’s a... Prequel-Spinoff. And it’s an interesting case for both sides of that hyphenate because the show it’s prequel-ing is still running and the spinoff revolves around the main character instead of whoever The Jeffersons equivalent of BBT is.

Will & Grace (September 28, NBC)

Where You’ve Seen This BeforeThe original run of the show was a mainstay on NBC’s Must See TV lineup in the early aughts.

What You’ll See This Time: They pick up just about right where they left off—it’s not quite explained how they’ll account for the 11 year gap or the finale that fast-forwarded to a future where Will and Grace have grown apart, started new relationships and have kids—with Will and Grace as roommates in the same apartment, Jack as their flamboyant neighbor and Karen as their boozy socialite friend.

So it’s a... Revival-boot. They’re basically playing it like the show just had a summer off, that lasted 11 years. They’re even going to pretend as if the finale never happened (which does mess with the straight-up time continuum and why the "–boot" gets added here) but aside from that, it’s back to the good old times.

 Curb Your Enthusiasm (October 1, HBO)

Where You’ve Seen This BeforeThe show has aired eight seasons, but went on hiatus in 2011. Larry and the gang are picking back up where they left off.

 What You’ll See This Time: Just Larry David being “Larry David.” So it’s going to be pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.

 So it’s a... Revival. Plain and simple. This is Larry’s world and we’re just living in it, waiting patiently for new seasons to arrive whenever they do.

 Dynasty (October 11, the CW)

Where You’ve Seen This BeforeIt was a soap opera in the 1980s about rich folks in Texas doing rich folk things. But like, in a soap opera way. So, very turnt up with soft focus lens. 

 What You’ll See This Time: The same stuff, but with more emphasis on the rich enfants terribles that the creators have traded in with their previous shows, Gossip Girl and The O.C.

So it’s a... Reboot. Purely recycling the same rich people problems for a younger generation. 

 S.W.A.T. (November 2, CBS)

Where You’ve Seen This Before: The original show ran in the 1970s on ABC. So you probably haven’t seen it before. Unless of course we’re talking about 2003’s S.W.A.T. movie starring Samuel L. Jackson and Colin Farrell. But hopefully you didn’t see that either.

What You’ll See This Time: Where the original series was based in an unnamed city in California and the team dispatched an array of trope-y vigilantes, this new series gets real. And real specific. They’re based in LA. And they’re dealing with racial tensions that threaten to push the city into chaos.

So it’s a... Reboot. Probably only because they really liked the name. And the theme song. It was a #1 hit single in 1976 and by most accounts reached greater heights of popularity than the show itself ever did. 

Najib Benouar

Najib Benouar has been known on occasion to write about menswear, ice cream scoops and all other manner of gentlemanly pursuit.

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