Looking through a copy of the comic catalog Previews recently, I realized how many canceled TV shows have been spun off into ongoing comic series: Buffy, Farscape, Jericho, even Galactica 1980... Why can't we say goodbye to things we love?
It's not just the comic continuations of canceled shows (which also include The X-Files, Angel and, soon, Pushing Daisies), though; old ideas are never allowed to die anymore anywhere; that's why we're reading news about Battlestar Galactica being relaunched as a movie by Bryan Singer, X-Files possibly undergoing a movie reboot, eagerly anticipating the 28-years-later sequel to Tron and worrying whether or not there's going to be a fifth Terminator movie.
Arguments could - and will - be made about how this shows the void of new ideas in the entertainment world, but I'm not sure that those really hold water; this year alone, we've seen District 9 and Moon find success, gotten curious about Chris Nolan's Inception and watched as James Cameron's Avatar has become the most anticipated movie of the year. New stories are out there, and from big studios normally condemned for only sticking with familiar franchises, as well (In television, the same arguments can be made; for all the familiarity of Fringe or Warehouse 13, they're new shows, as are/were Dollhouse, Day One and even Flash Forward. As far as comics go, you only have to leaf through the 400+ page Previews to see all manner of new ideas sharing space with familiar faces). So, if it's not that no-one's coming up with new stories, why do we keep going back to the old?
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It can't just be nostalgia; you can't really tell me that Jericho's return as a comic book and potential TV movie comes down to people longing for those halcyon days of 2008, for one thing, and it's not just the sense of unfinished stories or unfulfilled potential (Unless I missed the legions of people crying out for someone to come along and give us the story of bearded Lorne Greene Adama in Galactica 1980 that they knew we deserved for all these years). So, what is it?
I'm worried that, ultimately, it's laziness. Not only laziness on the side of creators, but also on the side of fans; for the creators, resurrecting an old franchise seems like a no-brainer because it:
* offers a way around that whole pesky "coming up with an idea" thing,
* brings a ready-made amount of fans, no matter how small, who are not only already interested in your product but can take up some slack on marketing and publicity (Yes, this involves "I can't believe they're letting Bryan Singer do BSG only months after Ron Moore's show ended" style outrage),
* creates an easy PR hook for whatever publicity you want to do ("[Character X] is back!")
* allows you to learn from the mistakes and successes of your predecessors instead of making yourself look like idiots in public (Until, of course, you learn new ways to do that, which is inevitable), and
* gives you a chance to work out some of your "I could do that idea a million times better!" feelings about original version.
On the fan side of things, though, it gets more complicated. We cling onto these resuscitations because, in a weird way, we feel entitled to them: We've invested all this time and energy in them, and - for want of a better way to put it - that gives us the right to demand more of it until we decide we're done (See: Star Trek and Star Wars and the fact that they'll never go away), and also because... well, we've invested all this time and energy and we want to know that it's not for nothing, and that we won't have to go through it all again with something else that might just break our heart.
In the end, it's as much a success for the market as it is anything else: Everything is available to us if we want it badly enough (Well, as long as what we want already exists; those new things, they still have to be dreamt up), even if it's not what we really need, or what is good for us. Don't get me wrong; for the people who couldn't consider life without knowing what happened to Angel and Illyria after the end of the TV show, I'm happy that they get their chance to find out (And I selfishly look forward to the further adventures of Ned and Chuck, when they appear). I just wish that, sometimes, we were not only allowed to move on from our old favorites and find something else to surprise and amaze us.