The 1992-1999 NBC comedy starring Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt became a hit in an era of limited TV options. But with its limited Spectrum Originals revival in 2019, Mad About You isn't anything special, says Judy Berman. "Seinfeld was famously envisioned as a show about nothing (a conceit that falls away the moment you recall the memorable storyline that revolved around Jerry and George creating a show about nothing)," says Berman. "Friends—which made early adulthood in New York look tranquil, easy and cheap—was so low-key that in its second life as the holy grail of licensed content, it essentially functions as an audiovisual benzodiazepine for teens and 20-somethings. But it was Mad About You, another one of NBC’s many ultra-popular ’90s series set in a whitewashed, upper-middle-class Manhattan, that really delivered on the promise of mundanity. What was the pitch for this smash hit that eventually earned its stars $1 million per episode: 'Man and woman are married'? More to the point, in an era when many would dismiss the original show as a soporific chronicle of 'rich people problems,' do we really need to check in on the uneventful lives of the Buchmans?" Berman adds: "The bigger issue is that Mad About You has stayed the same amid a television landscape that keeps changing. Without the goofy roommate capers of Friends, the inventiveness of Seinfeld or even the timeless pseudo-intellectualism of Frasier’s Crane brothers, Mad About You doesn’t feel distinctive enough to become a streaming phenomenon. It worked in the ’90s because it was often the most inviting option on offer—something gentle and inoffensive for when there was nothing else to watch. Now that practically everything is available on TV, all the time, the Buchmans might be too polite to make themselves heard over so much noise."
Mad About You finds some success by avoiding politics and being easygoing: "It’s not much, but it’s more than can be said for reboots of Will & Grace, Roseanne, and Murphy Brown, all of which felt strained and pinched by their need to comment on the political moment, sacrificing characters and tone in the process," says Daniel D'Addario. “Mad About You was never that show — it’s a pleasantly solipsistic piece of work about two wealthy and blissfully unaffected New Yorkers. Viewed a certain way, this show about people with no real problems but the ones they create for themselves is Seinfeld without the misanthropy."
The revival appears to be recycling plot points from the original series: "The pilot featured a storyline about how Paul and Jamie weren't having sex five months after their marriage because they were too busy, and the third episode of the revival reveals they're not having sex because Jamie is going through menopause and lacks a sexual appetite," says Kaitlin Thomas. "Like so much else about the show, the episode goes for the lowest and most obvious jokes without elevating them or providing any insightful commentary."
Paul Reiser says returning to Mad About You was easy: "It really took no transition at all,” he says. “We were all so fond of each other and we spent seven years together. The minute we walked into the space, it was so familiar. It actually felt weird that it didn’t feel weird.”