ReBoot was the first computer animated TV series, but having decided to exploit this new technology, the creators of the show came up with the laziest premise possible: people living inside a computer. And so it continued for two seasons; campy, childish, and trite.
Then, starting with season three, the producers suddenly decided to make the show good.
To be fair, ReBoot was a kids show airing on American network television. The network, ABC, forced some oddly strict rules on them; for instance, Dot’s (the female lead) original character design featured breasts that the network considered too graphic. Mainframe, the animation studio behind the series responded by making them more abstract, into what they called a ‘monoboob.’ Perhaps more disturbingly, one episode had a scene in which Dot kiss her little brother Enzo on the cheek, which the network wanted changed on the grounds that it would promote incest (cause the only thing holding it back is the lack of approval from cartoon characters).
If there’s one scene that exemplifies the first two seasons of the series, though, its in the episode about Enzo’s birthday (the same episode as the kiss, by the way). MegaByte, the villain of the series, suddenly crashes the party, presumably to wreak havoc. Instead, he pulls out a guitar and performs. In that instant, the view knows that there’s no ‘evil’ in the ReBoot world, no real conflict, and thus, no real consequences to anything that happens.
But as season two begins to wind down, things start to change. After some admittedly tepid build up, the season ends unlike any ReBoot episode before it; with something actually happening. Bob is exiled to the net and Enzo is left to take his place.
And so we come to season three, and it’s a whole new show. Now it’s a serial (the story continues from one episode to the next) and there is real danger in the world. Also, Dot now has two breasts. Without Bob, MegaByte has become a genuine threat, and Enzo’s good intentions aren’t enough to compensate for his lack of skill. After a few episodes, Enzo himself is lost to the net, at which point we jump ahead a number of (years) to him as an adult, an embittered ‘renegade’ with a false eye, on a quest to find his way home, along with his now-adult game sprite girlfriend AndrAia. It’s commendable, if not amazing, that they are able to cobble together such a complex mythology out of so lazy a premise.
At times, it feels like the creators are punching above their weight class. Like their capabilities aren’t quite up to executing the vision they have in their heads. It’s still a kids show, though by this point it aired primarily in the evenings on a Canadian cable channel, so if never gets as dark as it needs to be. The acting is hit or miss, it’s still plagued with juvenile humor, and things end a little too neatly tied up with a bow; but its entertaining, especially considering the constraints it was working under.
The DVDs are nice looking. It’s computer animated, so it’s sharp; but it’s rather primitive by today’s standards, blocky, lacking detail, and low resolution. The Mainframe Edition includes an extra disc of special features.