Cue "My Sharona" and the sounds of the members of Gen X quietly weeping about the passing of their youth: Reality Bites, the Ben Stiller-directed, Winona Ryder-starring cultural touchstone of 1994 — i.e. before some Millennials had been born — is being developed as a TV show for NBC.
Nellie Andreeva of Deadline reported last night that Stiller and Helen Childress, who wrote the movie, are working together on a single-camera comedy project based on the film for NBC. Childress will write the pilot which will have essentially the same focus as the film, telling the stories of college grad Lelaina Pierce (Ryder in the movie) and her group of friends figuring out life in '90s era Houston.
In a 2012 interview in The New York Times Ethan Hawke, who played the heartthrob-y slacker lead Troy, explained that the movie was "always very much aware of itself as a time capsule." For that reason Reality Bites holds up surprisingly well as a period piece, appealing to Millennials who are nostalgic for a time they were too young to experience and perhaps secretly enjoy reading BuzzFeed Rewind. Entertainment Weekly writers Darren Franich and Keith Staskiewicz, two Gen Yers, wrote in 2011 that they found the movie "fascinating," though they debated its sincerity. "It’s essentially a time capsule constructed entirely of flannel, denim, Big Gulps and pre-corporate alt-rock," they wrote. "At the center of the film is Winona Ryder, an actress who more or less defined her generation." The movie is iconic simply for being what it is.
Which is why it will be tricky to bring the film to TV: if it doesn't revel in '90s Gen X culture and recreating that "time capsule," there's not much in it that 2 Broke Girls, Laverne & Shirley and a million other coming-of-age sit-coms haven't covered before. Ultimately, the whole thing—if it ever makes it to air—sounds like a kitschy "ha, look how weird people 20 years ago were" enterprise. Of course, that worked pretty well for Ashton Kutcher and the gang.
The biggest challenge in that respect is the casting. The actors in the film—Ryder, Hawke, Janeane Garofalo—are icons of that period. A Winona facsimile will not be Winona. But the one thing that's certain is that the movie has a sequence that will make for a perfect TV show opener.