Is It Time for a Break From Virtual Reunions?

30 Rock, Community, Parks and Rec
NBCUniversal; Community/YouTube; NBCUniversal

In the age of coronavirus, feel-good fixes will be accepted in nearly any form, including the now common virtual TV reunions.

Let me begin this by saying, I have deeply enjoyed various reunions — which have supported some extremely valuable charities in a time when people are in need — but I also can’t be the only one feeling a bit fatigued by the format.

When stay-at-home orders began in March, it was a fantastic distraction to hear some of our favorite stars of shows old and new were coming together for good causes. But now we’re nearly five months into pandemic-sparked reunions and the novelty is wearing off.

It was easy to keep track of the reunions, table reads and virtual Q&As for the first few weeks, but in July I can’t tell you which reunions are on the horizon because I’ve sincerely lost a hold on the announcements. That phrase of “too much of a good thing” comes to mind when thinking about these events.

Community Table Read

Community (Credit: Community/YouTube)

While it is easy to lump all versions of these reunions together, there are plenty of ways in which they vary. Some casts have put together entirely new episodes — my personal favorite — while others have read episodes that have yet to film/air, and then there’s the virtual table reads of old episodes.

Netflix was one of the first to take on this format with table readings for Big Mouth and Grace and Frankie via the Netflix Is a Joke YouTube page. In the case of Grace and Frankie, fans were treated to a reading of the first episode for Season 7, which has yet to air. This solid start was a brief source of relief in the early days of quarantine.  Fox’s Duncanville also followed suit as the cast gathered virtually to read the pilot episode via the Animation Domination page on YouTube.

But making things even sunnier was the announcement of A Parks and Recreation Special, which brought together the NBC comedy’s original cast for the first time in a scripted reunion. Despite its limited filming capabilities, this reunion achieved the most in comparison to its predecessors, setting a bar for future reunions.

Fast forward to July, and viewers were given perhaps one of the highest-quality, albeit commercialized reunions with 30 Rock: A One-Time Special for NBC’s upfronts. This scripted reunion was also one of the best-shot specials in the age of coronavirus, but its use as a promotion for Peacock and pandering to advertisers took away some of its luster.

30 Rock A One Time Special

30 Rock (Credit: NBC)

Meanwhile Happy Endings made a triumphant return for its avid followers with a new scripted reunion which played out as one big Zoom call. But as fatigue around the virtual reunions grows stronger, shows like Happy Endings and those who are later to this virtual format than others lose out on the attention they actually deserve.

This format can be a great way to stay socially aware by contributing to charities, as well as a way to see casts of long-loved shows like Community, which saw a flurry of streaming activity during quarantine, come together after a long time apart. But I’m ready to hit snooze for a while. As we near the fall TV lineup, which will be comparatively lighter than in previous years, it would be an opportune time to revisit the virtual reunion format, but not until then.