Everything once popular can be rebooted. Mr. Potato Head got a second life in the Toy Story series and now, Hasbro is rebranding him with a gender neutral name and surrounding him with a soulmate and a family.
Audiences love a known quantity. That’s why spin-offs like “Rhoda” and “The Jeffersons” worked. But it’s not a given. Think “After MASH,” if that show hasn’t already faded from your Reboot memory.
So, what’s the secret to sustaining a career in an ever-changing world?
Smart people distill the essence of their gifts and think of new ways to reboot them.
Bob Hope is a textbook example. He realized early that his skills were best expressed in a master of ceremonies role. When radio became a thing, he took his theatrical act to that medium. In his break-out film as an actor, “The Big Broadcast of 1938”, his character, Buzz Fielding, was an emcee. Even during his profitable road picture series with Bing Crosby, Bob’s shtick was ostensibly the same. He honed the act to such perfection that NBC gave him a lifetime contract as he rebooted from radio to Television.
The challenge many of us face today is getting stuck in the paradigms that we’ve defined in our resumes.
As business models evolve, human resources that were once the golden goose that made a company great, become the most expensive and expendable asset. When the cash-flow hockey stick levels out and starts to dip, the first place management looks is headcount.
In the radio biz, there are examples of talent who leveraged their air-work to create a broader brand. Wolfman Jack‘s time behind the mic in Mexico caught the eye of George Lucas. His memorable role in “American Graffiti” was step one. He then syndicated a Graffiti Gold radio show before the shine of the film wore off. He donned a cowboy hat to broaden his appeal to country audiences when he became a recurring host on the Midnight Special. When he died, the Wolfman had rebooted a half dozen times and was still thinking up new iterations.
In both of these examples, the individuals distilled their core competencies, developed them to a high level and always kept their eyes on new, creative ways to use them to add value.
One of the things I love about being a writer these days is that almost all of my compatriots took up The Craft as a reboot. We came to storytelling from many different backgrounds but we share the same objective: To reinvent ourselves as authors. The same applies to the characters we write about. Every new novel that features a popular star is a reboot. Characters evolve. New challenges appear. What excites readers is watching how our protagonists find new ways to win.
The pandemic is another wake-up call that whatever we do today will be drastically different tomorrow. Hollywood Reboots re-introduce us to beloved characters, placing them in new situations, where their flaws are exposed, they learn, they grow and their powers can be used in a new way. How we adapt and innovate with regard to our personal brand can keep our career trajectory on the bestseller list.