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Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
t behooves those of us who write about pop culture to occasionally come clean, and admit that a TV show or a movie has flummoxed us. “ReBoot,” for me, is one such concept. That I was felled by a Saturday morning cartoon isn’t something that sets easy with me, but I feel as though I have to state it upfront, as it’s the only way I can be sure that this review will make sense. Otherwise, long-time fans of this cult series will no doubt read these words and have good long belly laughs at the newbie, and his failure to grasp what to them probably seems simple and obvious.
“ReBoot” takes places in a computer world called Mainframe. Its inhabitants refer to the unseen User as a sort of god, I suppose. Guardian Bob (Michael Benyaer) is the central character, and together with his friends Dot Matrix (Kathleen Barr) and her little brother Enzo (Jesse Moss, and later, Matthew Sinclair), the trio do battle primarily against two viruses named Megabyte (Tony Jay) and Hexadecimal (Shirley Millner). Megabyte and Hexadecimal are themselves frequently caught up in battles of their own. There are a seemingly infinite number of other little critters of all shapes and sizes running around Mainframe; some are good and some are bad.
Each episode introduces some new threat to Mainframe, or Bob and his cohorts become involved in playing a game via the User. It makes a certain kind of strange sense, I guess, but I could never get past the gnawing feeling that much of the goings-on were flying way over my head. Of course, I’m the guy who also doesn’t understand “Tron” all that well, and this concept reminded me of that one in a lot of ways. Sad that someone who spends so much time in front of a computer would have trouble grasping these ideas, but then again, I’m writer, not a programmer or a gamer.
“ReBoot” was the first fully computer animated TV series, so it’s got a pretty important place in TV history. The show first aired on Saturday mornings on ABC in 1994, although it had been in production since ’91. So we’re talking 20-year-old computer animation here, and while, yes, it looks dated compared to similar material created today, we can’t really hold that against it. This was cutting edge at the time, and given its age, it really doesn’t look bad at all by today’s standards; just a little clunky maybe. The colors are gorgeous and the soundtrack is nice and thumping.
Even though I don’t get the show, I can see that it’s smart TV, and in some bizarre, subversive manner, it probably once upon a time did all sorts of warping of childhood minds. Mark Zuckerberg probably watched this as a kid, and look where he is today. It’s loaded with all kinds of geeky sci-fi and TV references from the time period, which dates it a little, but not in a horrible way. This is probably the kind of material you had to be around for at the time in order to appreciate it today. For me, “Land of the Lost” is such a show. It’s foolish trying to turn anyone on to that program at this point in life. Either you were there at the time and you get it, or the chance to enjoy it has passed you by; must be the same with “ReBoot.” When I got this set, I asked around on Facebook what the consensus was, and at least a half a dozen people whose opinions I trust piped up and said it was a big fave of theirs back in the day.
As I understand it, “ReBoot” aired for the two seasons in this set on ABC. Then another season and a couple TV movies were created for syndication purposes, which were darker and deeper in tone. That third season and the movies have previously been available on DVD, so I guess that’s why Shout! Factory is releasing these two seasons separately, in the event you already own the other stuff. Also available directly from Shout! is “ReBoot: The Definitive Mainframe Edition,” which contains everything and can at present only be purchased directly from Shout!
In any case, this is a good show, but a good show I don’t entirely understand, hence the three-star review. It probably deserves more than that, but I can’t in good conscience award the extra stars to “ReBoot.” I’m sure you can and will.
Special Features: This set contains only an ongoing commentary track over the first three episodes featuring some of the folks behind the show. The Mainframe edition appears to have quite a bit more.