Mad About You's Writers Room Was The Perfect Inspiration For Paul Reiser's Role In Reboot

On Hulu's clever new show "Reboot," Paul Reiser plays Gordon Gelman, the wealthy, older writer who originally created the early 2000s hit sitcom "Step Right Up" that is being revived by Hulu. His estranged daughter Hannah, an indie film screenwriter who wants to inject new, contemporary life into the show, co-runs the series with him because he still owns the rights. 

One of the best parts about "Reboot" is that it offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the tense and exciting environment of a writer's room. This space is made even more complicated by the fact that there are several generations of writers — inconsiderate boomers and Gen Xers and inclusive millenials and Zoomers — battling for creative control. The series explores how cultural standards have transformed the entertainment landscape and whether or not we can find cross-generational harmony. Show creator Steven Levitan elaborates on the intergenerational themes in an interview with /Film.

Paul Reiser sat down with GQ to discuss "Reboot," particularly how his own experience working in a writer's room at both Hannah and Gordon's ages helped him relate to the role: 

"[W]hat's really fun for me about doing the show is it's a world that feels so familiar. That walk back from a rehearsal where jokes don't work and you have to go back to the writers' room and maybe you have to tear up the script: that's a real painful thing. In this show, I just get to pretend that I have those problems. It's actually [creator] Steve Levitan's problem. But those walks are where the comedy plays."

Reiser's work on "Mad About You" put him in a unique position to understand "Reboot" because the hit sitcom, which ran on NBC for seven seasons in the 1990s, was revived in 2019 for Spectrum. 

The generational divide in the Mad About You revival

As both a writer and star of "Mad About You," Paul Reiser explains to GQ that he understood the unique dynamic between actors and writers that "Reboot" depicts: 

"On 'Mad About You,' I was in the writers' room and I was on stage, and also I created the show, so there was a little bit of a difference, but I know damn well when I walked out, there was a lot of rolling their eyes, like, 'Fricking actors.' The politics, the behind-the-scenes, the actors rolling their eyes at the writers, the writers rolling their eyes at the actors, the old people making fun of the young people: all that stuff is true." 

There was also a generational divide behind the scenes of "Mad About You" when the series returned for a reboot. According to Reiser, he and his co-star Helen Hunt wanted a small writer's room with a younger staff: "Helen and I were very clear: 'Okay, we will be the old guard, we know what the show was and we know how to do it, but we need you guys to be the younger guard." These fresh-faced writers would bring contemporary ideas to the table.

You can mainly see their influence in the depiction of Paul and Jamie's daughter Mabel, a freshman at New York University. In one episode, Paul guest speaks at one of Mabel's film classes, and her peers chastise him for not including any women in his latest documentary. When Paul accidentally calls Mabel "honey," during his lecture (afraid of seeming privileged, she doesn't want her peers to know that he is her father), the class accuses him of being a misogynist. This storyline has the kind of modern twist that "Reboot" spoofs.