“Reboot” is a fairly new term in the world of motion picture, television, and pop culture franchises. It was adopted from lingo used to describe when a computer’s operating system is shut down, and started back up. The action on a computer usually corrects problems with the operating system, thus allowing applications to run more smoothly. When the term “reboot” is used for a pop culture franchise, the production crews are seeking a similar effect. They are hoping to attract a new audience, broaden an existing one, or just creatively take stories and concepts in a different direction. Although the term is new, the practice is about as old as pop culture franchises themselves.
An early example of a cinematic reboot happened within the Sherlock Holmes films produced between 1939 and 1946. Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce starred together in 14 movies as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. The first two films, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes were both placed in the period of the original novels. The third film in 1942, Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, shifted Holmes and Watson to contemporary times.
Some sources site the 2006 movie, The Pink Panther starring Steve Martin as a reboot of the Pink Panther film series. The 1963 movie, The Pink Panther starring Peter Sellers was followed by eight sequels from 1964 to 1993. The 2006 remake of the original film was then followed by The Pink Panther 2 in 2009. Since more sequels are being planned, I suppose there is a good argument for calling the first Steve Martin film a “reboot” as opposed to a “remake”. Sometimes distinguishing a “reboot” from a “remake” might be as tricky as deciding whether or not to call a remake a “remake”, or a “re-imagining”. It will be a game of semantics until a better universally accepted definition for “reboot” is established. Regardless it is still far quicker to say, and has more meaning in the computer age than “wiping the slate clean.”