Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Comeback failures

The story is a familiar one. A TV series finishes, a band breaks up or a writer stops writing. Then, ten years later, then either the royalties have stopped pouring in, or old hatchets have been buried, the cast/band/writer gather themselves together and decide to have a comeback.

I'm not talking about an artist taking a couple of years between albums (which the press now seem to deem a comeback) but I'm talking about The Eagles recording "Hell Freezes Over" or Pink Floyd playing at Live8. I'm also talking about "Red Dwarf: Back To Earth" which was shown on Dave here in the UK over this weekend.

More often that not, the result of a comeback is not an incredible return to form. And certainly the new work very rarely reaches the expectations of the fans who are clamouring for the return in the first place.

This weekend was a case in point. Red Dwarf: Return to Earth certainly wasn't diabolical. It had a good central idea, and a few good jokes. But it certainly wasn't the glorious return of an old friend which it had been billed as. It may have worked as an episode in the middle of a series ten years ago (in fact, if you've seen the episode "Back To Reality" then you may argue that the plot may already had appeared in a series a few years ago...).

There is a reason why groups split up. Sometimes it's because of internal differences and sometimes it's because their creativity is spent. And I'd argue that quite often the former is as a result of the tension which ensues from the latter.

Generally the nostalgia for what used to be (what other kind of nostalgia is there?) can sustain a group for a greatest hits tour, or a special of a TV series but it's rare for that to carry forwards into a successful new album, or a successful new series. The only two examples I can think of in recent years are Doctor Who and Take That. (I could write at length on the former, and hardly at all on the latter.)

It makes me have respect for ABBA, the cast of Blackadder, the cast of Fawlty Towers and a few others I could mention who are quite happy to be interviewed about the past, but resist calls (and enormous sums of money) to get the show on the road again.

One of the guys from ABBA, quoting Robert Plant - I think, once said if ABBA were to go on tour now, they would be a tribute act covering their own songs. It's just a shame that a few others don't see that...

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