"You can come back, baby," Bob Seger once promised. And who would want to live in a world where Bob Seger's promises mean nothing? Not The A.V. Club, that's for sure. What follows is a list of concepts, programs, acts, and people whose time came and went, but is due to come back around, because we need them more now than ever.
Foolishly ambitious websites
Why? Because some of them, like Kozmo.com, were awesome. Called "the shining example of a good idea gone bad" by CNET, Kozmo let customers rent DVDs, order food, and buy CDs, pregnancy tests, and pints of Ben & Jerry's, plus tons more. It'd all arrive via bike messenger in an hour for no service charge. Small orders—like a candy bar—soon did the company in, though: According to Securities & Exchange Commission documents, the company made $3.5 million in 1999—and lost $26.3 million.
Why now? More than six years have passed since Kozmo made its last delivery. Surely someone has figured out a way to make money doing this, right?
How they might come back: Kozmo has, sort of. In 2005, Kozmo vet Chris Siragusa started MaxDelivery.com, a more grocery-focused site, but with the one missing piece of Kozmo's puzzle: booze. Unfortunately, it's only available in New York City.
Why? After Affleck and buddy Matt Damon wrote their own ticket with the Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting, their careers split off like the tortoise and the hare." While Damon carefully cultivated a reputation as a serious actor with impeccable taste, Affleck jumped right into the Hollywood fast lane, winning instant fame before crashing hard on the heels of lousy projects like Daredevil, Surviving Christmas, and Gigli, not to mention the tabloid excesses of the "Bennifer" affair. Truth be told, there isn't much in his filmography that earns him a second chance, yet his public appearances reveal an intelligent, affable man who stands a good chance of aging well, now that his wild, crappy oats have been sown.
Why now? Affleck's performance as George Reeves in last year's Hollywoodland was a revelation. No doubt Affleck could identify with Reeves' precipitous downfall, and that mournful spirit carries over to his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, a superb Dennis Lehane adaptation with a great feel for his working-class Boston roots.
How he might come back: The fact that Affleck isn't an A-list Hollywood star any more should work in his favor, since the temptation to make Pearl Harbor 2 isn't an issue. Hopefully, Gone Baby Gone will be a new statement of purpose.
Why? Before he was resigned to churning out family dreck like Little Giants or Honey, I Shrunk The Increasingly Uninteresting Contrivance, Rick Moranis was a gifted comic actor who honed his versatile chops on SCTV, where he did amazing impressions of everyone from Neil Diamond to George Carlin. Then came Ghostbusters, and suddenly, all anybody wanted from him was some variation on the wimpy, voice-cracking Louis Tully. To his credit, nobody did it better (see also: Little Shop Of Horrors), but after Honey came along, Disney got its hooks into Moranis and never let go. When his wife died, Moranis left the movie business altogether to raise his kids, choosing instead to dabble in music with albums like The Agoraphobic Cowboy.
Why now? With Ghostbusters compadre Bill Murray proving that there's life beyond the easy laugh, now is a perfect time for Moranis to finally try his hand at something that requires him to do more than just talk funny.
How he might come back: By taking a role in something by Wes Anderson or Noah Baumbach that lets him be understatedly quirky, rather than just another nerd caricature.
Listening To The Grateful Dead Without Guilt
Why? No band in rock history comes with more negative baggage than The Dead. To appreciate all that Jerry Garcia hath wrought, you have to claw your way through decades of embarrassing Deadhead jackassery and aggressive nay-saying from rock critics, hipsters, and punk rockers. Those who can survive the journey—many people don't even try—will discover that The Dead doesn't fit the stereotype of a stoned, directionless jam band wanking away for stoned, directionless people. Like its better-regarded peers, Bob Dylan and The Band, The Dead at its best (see American Beauty and Mars Hotel, for starters) dug deep into the roots of American music and brought it into the modern age, simultaneously evoking the past, commenting on the present, and pointing toward the future. And the jams are pretty cool, too.
Why now? The Dead gets blamed for inspiring jam bands, but un-jammy acts like Wilco, Oakley Hall, Ryan Adams, Will Oldham, Midlake, and Paul Duncan owe the group an obvious debt on their recent releases. Other bands, like Broken Social Scene and Animal Collective, have plugged into the Dead's freewheeling spirit of collective collaboration.
How it might come back: Take a deep breath, forget the baggage, and buy American Beauty. Just don't tell your friends.
Why? Detractors weren't wrong when they assessed Ang Lee's foray into the realm of big-budget superhero movies as ponderous, slow, atmospheric at the expense of action, and more in love with its cineastic allusions to Alfred Hitchcock (via shots of golden San Francisco and a quasi-Bernard Herrmann score) than with its source material in old comic books. The objectors were wrong, however, when they wrote off such attributes as liabilities. Hulk's moody pacing has helped to sustain and bear out the film's mysteries over time, and even its most indulgent scenes—many marked by the conspicuous absence of a certain green character with big muscles and bad shorts—answer to a special kind of ambition.
Why now? Numerous other superhero films have hewed toward the dark and psychological in recent years, but none has made as grand a game of retooling traditional action-movie arcs and narrative ticks. Have we reached a point yet when what we really want is for Hollywood to be more explosive and less experimental?
How it might come back: Repeat viewings offer rewarding formalist games and psychedelic visuals—none of which are drawbacks late at night.
Why? Being so widely identified for one role—in this case, the quietly sultry Dana Scully on The X-Files—isn't always helpful for actors looking to expand their repertoire, but if David Duchovny can have his own TV show (Californication), surely his more gifted counterpart can find good work, too. Exhibits A through Z in support of Anderson's talent are on display in The House Of Mirth, a sterling Edith Wharton adaptation in which her tragic socialite suffers for asserting herself in a society that tacitly forbids it. And that famous monotone of hers can be used to deadpan comic effect, too, as it was when she played herself (and Widow Wadman) in Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story.
Why now? It used to be a sad fact in Hollywood that decent roles for women over 40 were tough to come by, but with beautiful older women like Laura Linney, Mary-Louise Parker, Maria Bello, and Virginia Madsen getting plum roles these days, it seems like the time is right for Anderson to stage a comeback.
How she might come back: Another X-Files movie appears to be in the offing—we'll believe it when we see it—but new projects with frequent Curb Your Enthusiasm director Robert B. Wiede and Love & Death On Long Island director Richard Kwietniowski sound more promising.
The Hughes Brothers
Why? The Hughes brothers' 1993 debut Menace II Society filtered the violence and brutality of inner-city life through the dark prism of film noir. In the process, it served as a bracing, downbeat counterpoint to the message-movie earnestness of John Singleton's Boyz In The Hood. Though derided at the time as an overreaching sophomore slump 1994's wildly ambitious blaxploitation-styled crime drama Dead Presidents is far better than its reputation suggests, as is the wildly entertaining 1999 street-life documentary American Pimp. After striking out with the 2001 adaptation of From Hell, the Hughes brothers retreated into television work. Hopefully they're already mapping out a return to the big screen.
Why now? In a world where Soul Plane and Hood Of Horror resurrect all the worst aspects of blaxploitation with none of the genre's redemptive low-down virtues, cinema would benefit tremendously from the return of a black filmmaking team that oozes ambition and style.
How they might come back: After the trip into television and period films, a cinematic return to the mean streets that fueled Menace, Presidents, and Pimp could be just what the brothers need for a comeback.
Mudhoney's Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge
Why? Mudhoney's second full-length, Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge, came out two months before Nirvana's Nevermind—and in a sense, it's the Bizarro Nevermind. Up to that point, Mudhoney was considered as big a contender as Nirvana, but Every Good Boy veered sharply left while the rest of the grunge underground turned right toward radio courtship and slickness. Where Nevermind soothed the savage sludge of its predecessor, Bleach, Mudhoney dragged Every Good Boy into the lo-fi outback, replacing the band's former heaviness with a scrappy, scruffy fuzz that embraced garage-pop and psychotropic slop alike. Mudhoney, once poised to ride the cultural wave of alternative rock, instantly became a cult act. The group never stopped releasing decent albums, but Every Good Boy in hindsight sounds like the grunge that should've been: ratty, humble, punky, weird, and catchy without resorting to grunting machismo.
Why now? With this decade's garage-rock resurgence already a punchline, there's a severe lack of roughage in the indie-rock diet. It might be a bit early for a full-on grunge revival—duck and cover when that day comes—but the current indie trend of aping the pomp and bombast of classic rock has just about hit the glass ceiling. By-the-numbers stoner metal isn't much better. And as Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life—which devotes a chapter to Mudhoney—continues to take root in the collective consciousness, it's only a matter of time before new bands start tapping into the wildness and noise of the late-'80s post-punk scene. All it takes is few seconds' exposure to the latest Shins knockoff to realize that the sour, jagged, boiled-in-acid sound of Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge is sorely needed today.
How it might come back: In one last spastic ploy for credibility, Zach Braff could include Every Good Boy's scabrous anthem "Into The Drink" in some lame '90s flashback montage during this fall's final season of Scrubs.
Elaine May and Charles Grodin
Why? Elaine May remains a sought-after script doctor, but after the Bronx cheers that greeted 1987's criminally underrated Ishtar—which co-starred Charles Grodin—she went MIA from the director's chair, in spite of an impeccable track record that included the brilliant 1971 screwball update A New Leaf, the classic 1972 anti-romantic comedy The Heartbreak Kid, and 1976's Mikey And Nicky, the best John Cassavetes film that Cassavetes never directed. Grodin, meanwhile, retired from acting following 1994's It Runs In The Family, only to make a tepid return with The Ex. Given the debased state of much film comedy, there's never been a better time for Grodin's wonderfully dyspeptic presence, or May's witty comedy of manners and genius for transforming discomfort into laughs.
Why now? The Farrelly brothers' widely panned Heartbreak Kid remake illustrates the huge gap between the pitch-black edginess of May's blistering satire on the dark underside of dream-chasing and the dopy, misanthropic slapstick of Ben Stiller teaming up with Carlos Mencia.
How they might come back: With something not involving Carlos Mencia in any way.
Why? Bubba Sparxxx has long struggled to live down a silly name and gimmicky initial image as a hillbilly Eminem. Of course, the cheeky barn noises Timbaland threw into the mix for early Sparxxx singles like "Bubba Talk" from Sparxxx's stellar debut didn't do much for the rapper's credibility. Sparxxx's follow-up, Deliverance, audaciously mashed together Timbaland's future funk with bluegrass fiddle, only to end up alienating country and hip-hop audiences alike. After amiably parting ways with Timbaland, Sparxxx hooked up with Big Boi's Purple Ribbon label and released another fine album, The Charm, which once again failed to find an audience.
Why now? Considering Eminem's steep decline, it'd be refreshing to hear a prominent white rapper whose albums didn't limply alternate between joyless introspection and juvenile humor. Besides, hip-hop can always use more rappers with substance and heart.
How he might come back: On The Charm's "Represent," Sparxxx raps about being "one song away" from where he needs to be, career-wise. Hopefully that long-sought-after breakthrough hit will arrive before he ends up in the Koch graveyard.
Why? Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist paved the way for cleverly written cartoons short on kinetic animation, but long on verbal wit and low-key observational humor. The show's influence can be felt throughout the Cartoon Networks' Adult Swim lineup, particularly on shows where Katz has appeared as a guest star. Multiple Sclerosis has limited Katz's mobility, but that shouldn't pose a problem in the wonderful world of animation.
Why now? The November release of a 13-disc box set containing Dr. Katz's entire run should prompt a tidal wave of nostalgia for one of comedy's most delightfully avuncular figures. The success of Adult Swim's lineup, meanwhile, proves there's still a huge audience for Katz's idiosyncratic style of squiggly, heavily improvised animation. The fact that Katz has played therapists (sometimes called "Dr. Katz") repeatedly since Dr. Katz went off the air highlights the public's enduring fondness for Katz's soothingly therapeutic brand of comedy.
How he might come back: It might just be time for Dr. Katz to hang up his shingle again and treat the neuroses and foibles of an entirely new generation of stand-up comedians.
Barney Miller re-runs
Why? From 1975 to 1982, the New York cop sitcom Barney Miller was reasonably popular and critically acclaimed, and even after ABC cancelled it, the repeats thrived in syndication for much of the next decade. But syndication packages feed on fresh meat, so Barney Miller was eventually driven out by Cheers, Seinfeld, That '70s Show, and so on. The show's abbreviated first season received a low-key DVD release a few years back, but since hardly anyone had seen the show since the mid-'90s, the set didn't sell, and there are no plans to release any more DVDs. And thus one of the sitcom form's smartest and funniest begins to disappear from the collective pop-culture consciousness.
Why now? The new conventional wisdom holds that single-camera sitcoms with no laugh tracks are ideal, and three-camera sitcoms with studio audiences or laugh tracks inherently suck, but prolonged exposure to Barney Miller—which at its best was as impeccably timed and staged as a one-act play—might convince younger TV watchers of the virtues of a simple style and good writing over shock-cuts and gags for gags' sake.
How they might come back: Since TV Land now only airs old shows that everyone has already seen in syndication or on DVD, we need a new retro-minded cable network, dedicated to hard-to-find classic sitcoms, Afterschool Specials, '70s game-show reruns, old MLB All-Star Games, and everything else that will make people of a certain generation feel like they're back under the family afghan, drinking chocolate milk.
Why? As a stand-up comedian in the early '90s, Macdonald combined observational humor with light absurdism and a hilariously foul mouth, creating a stage persona that let him mock lotteries, televised sports, dog clothes, and the human subconscious while remaining dweebishly likeable. Then, as the anchor of Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update," Macdonald turned that persona in on itself, ramping up the dark, dry wit and downplaying the charm, making the whole idea of "fake news" and everybody participating in it—real and fictional—look ridiculous. Appropriately enough, Ridiculous is also the name of Macdonald's lone comedy album, a sketch-heavy, not-that-funny record that was released (and largely ignored) last year.
Why now? When everyone from Jon Stewart to Dennis Miller is selectively ripping out headlines to make loaded political jokes, a strong dose of Macdonald's indifference would be refreshing. Besides, with O.J. Simpson back in the news, the time is ripe for commentary by someone unafraid to call a murderer a murderer.
How he might come back: Between gambling binges, Macdonald has kept busy with stand-up appearances, voiceover gigs, and a failed pilot, but his talents would best be put to use back on Saturday Night Live, which could use some self-immolating recklessness to counteract the current cast's "stoner goof-off" vibe. Or Macdonald could kill someone. That would also get him back on TV pretty quick. (And imagine the jokes!)