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The Real-Life Stories Behind the Reboot Romance

Writer Andrew Gurland reveals what inspired the show's swooniest episode.
  • Reed (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bree (Judy Greer) play a flirty game on Reboot (Photo: Michael Desmond/Hulu)
    Reed (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bree (Judy Greer) play a flirty game on Reboot (Photo: Michael Desmond/Hulu)

    Nobody kisses or even holds hands, but "Bewitched," the sixth episode of Reboot, still might be the most romantic half hour on television this year.

    In just under 25 minutes, it features not one but three stories about people falling for each other. Each plot has the off-kilter humor that makes Hulu's comedy such a standout, but underneath the edgy jokes about lesbian dog names and co-workers in fetish gear, there's a bedrock of sincere, butterflies-in-the-stomach emotion that should be familiar to anyone who's fallen in love.

    That's at least partly because Andrew Gurland, who wrote the script, pulled elements from his own life. This includes the game that Bree (Judy Greer) and Reed (Keegan-Michael Key) play, where they make up fake lives for people they see at a hotel.

    “Many years ago, I had been really busy working on a pilot on the 20th [Century Studios] lot, and there was this one time my wife and I went away for a romantic weekend,” Gurland says. “We became obsessed with another couple, talking about what they might be doing. We had not been connecting because I'd been working so hard and neglecting our children, and she had been overwhelmed by that. And there was a way in which we were able to connect romantically in the detective game of studying this couple and trying to figure out what their deal was. It became a way for us to forget about our own lives. We could get lost in something else and reconnect in that way.”

    Of course, Bree and Reed aren’t married. They're exes who can't reasonably be together, and that tension is key to the show, about a popular old sitcom getting a gritty reboot for Hulu. When they play the game, however, it's impossible to deny their chemistry.

    For Gurland, that's even more meaningful than an earlier episode that has Bree and Reed film an awkward sex scene. "I love romance," he says. "We hadn't had a suggestion that there could be romance between them again, and that was something that a lot of voices in the room were excited about."

    Real life also drove the episode's story about Zack (the actor) and Elaine (the producer), as well as the connection between Hannah (the showrunner) and Mallory (the HR director). Just like in the fictional writers' room, the actual writers' room of Reboot had a meeting where HR told them that if someone wanted to ask out a co-worker, they were only allowed to ask once. That inspired the escalating jokes about Zack (Calum Worthy) trying to find his opening with Elaine (Krista Marie Yu) and the writers trying to make sure Mallory (Stephanie Allynne) would be interested in Hannah (Rachel Bloom) in the first place.

    Then there's the way the romantic stories lead to other kinds of breakthroughs. When he's trying to play matchmaker, Gordon (Paul Reiser) — Hannah’s co-showrunner and her estranged father — acknowledges that his absentee parenting made it hard for her to trust people. Elaine poignantly tells Zack why it’s hard for a female exec to date a male co-worker in a sexist industry, and Bree has the courage to tell Reed she loved having fun with him again.

    For Gurland, those moments tie the episode back to the purpose of the entire series: "You can connect it to the theme of the show, which is 'We're going to reboot this show, but this time, we're going to do it more honestly.' And [in this episode], each character is having a more honest interaction."

    Ironically enough, all those genuine moments also involve performing. Bree and Reed play a game. When Gordon talks to Hannah, he talks about her love life like it's a screenplay. And even when Elaine surprises Zack by showing up for a date, they're at a Pulp Fiction screening, dressed up in costumes.

    But maybe that’s authentic, too. "Sometimes," Gurland says, "pretending lets you be more honest."

    New episodes of Reboot premiere Tuesdays on Hulu.

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    Mark Blankenship has been writing about arts and culture for twenty years, with bylines in The New York Times, Variety, Vulture, Fortune, and many others. You can hear him on the pop music podcast Mark and Sarah Talk About Songs.

    TOPICS: Reboot, Hulu, Andrew Gurland, Calum Worthy, Judy Greer, Keegan-Michael Key, Krista Marie Yu, Rachel Bloom, Stephanie Allynne