During the ATX Festival in Austin over the weekend, the cast of Felicity assembled for a reunion in the form of a panel. Scott Foley, the handsome man who played Noel, the brunette arm of the love triangle that powered the entire series, noted that most of the cast hadn’t seen each other in the 20 years since the show wrapped—a fact that made the reunion “extra special.” Foley, perhaps high on the fumes of camaraderie and old times, also floated the idea of a reboot.
“I would love the opportunity to see what happened [with the characters],” he said, according to Deadline. “I miss you guys!”
For every 10 bad reboots (a part of TV culture now that seems like a side effect of exhaustion and a perpetually dire news cycle), there’s a diamond-in-the-rough remake like the incandescent Twin Peaks. I am of the sound opinion that Felicity would similarly make sense as a one-season reboot, so that the titular character can make the right decision and choose Noel over Ben.
Felicity purists will run at me with pitchforks and fisherman sweaters, screaming, Well, actually, in the end of the show, there was a time when Felicity did choose Noel over Ben—it was a bizarre time travel plot that was the result of the show being picked up for five more episodes after it had already wrapped. To be fair to creator J.J. Abrams, there was little else to do with this gift but to turn it into a tidy few hours of speculative fiction that wondered what would’ve happened had Felicity made a different choice—a situation that simply does not exist in real life because time is linear, and the choices we make are unfortunately the choices we make forever.
Ben (Scott Speedman) was brooding, mysterious, and kind of an asshole—the perfect man whom an 18-year-old high school senior would follow blindly across the country, abandoning Stanford for the fictional University of New York, an NYU stand-in with large apartments, unrealistic dorm rooms and a Dean and DeLuca with enough space to conduct a roller derby within its walls. Ben didn’t initially like Felicity. Their relationship was one that, as much as is possible for a young adult drama, felt relatively real in its ebbs and flows. They were sometimes friends and sometimes more. Ben developed a gambling problem. Ben got Lauren (Lisa Edelstein), a woman he met in AA, pregnant. Lauren had the child. Ben cheated on Felicity with a woman named Claire.
Saps and the easily wounded will say that a part of your first love is embedded in you forever. Perhaps because of this, Felicity stayed.
In contrast, Noel Crane (Scott Foley), is the obvious choice to a 35-year-old woman watching the show with the understanding that even a mediocre man is hard to find. For Felicity, an impressionable young college student who speaks into a tape recorder for what feels like eons and chased a James Dean-wannabe across the country, Noel was vanilla. Though he was safe, he was not perfect. His rebellion, when it happened, was brief but jarring: he got ill-advised highlights, married a woman played by Ali Landry, and later annulled the marriage. This was his sole aberration; he was otherwise a pillar, supportive and strong, reliable and responsible. But Noel is the second choice, the safe bet. He will always be there.
For Felicity, the time travel plot was a radical experiment, a choose-your-own-adventure that allowed the characters to, as Vulture’s Jackson McHenry noted in 2016, relish in their indecision and do what we never have the chance to do in real life. Why not push that envelope even further by leaning into that natural indecision?
A briefly rebooted appendix that fully explores a life where Keri Russell and Scott Foley do the New York Times crossword puzzle in a patch of hazy sun for at least three episodes would be nostalgia done right. Viewers are owed little by the creators of the content they consume, but for a show that so deftly excavated the nuances of indecision, it feels only right to fully explore the other half of the story with the attention and the scrutiny it deserves. In a landscape cluttered with relics, why not give Felicity a chance to correct the record.
Yearning for verisimilitude in a television show feels pointless. It is fiction, regardless of how real some of it feels. But the best shows evince genuine emotion. Felicity had to marry Ben for TV, but if Felicity had been real, Ben would’ve dropped out of college, started a bad band, and never spoken to Felicity again. Ben is the type of person whose indecisiveness is both attractive and repellent. Noel makes the ability to simply make a decision—an undervalued trait—look sexy. And yet in fiction and in life, stability is unappealing at a young age because chaos often feels like a stand-in for passion. Why set foot on a boat in constant motion when dry, solid land is just as fine.