Derek Waters loves TV history — so much so that he even keeps a collection of old TV Guide magazines at home. As the co-creator and host of Comedy Central’s Emmy-nominated “Drunk History,” it’s perhaps no surprise that Waters reveres classic TV — particularly from his childhood era of the 1980s.
But here’s where he draws the line at nostalgia: Reboots and remakes.
“I hope some day, I’m alive to see some sort of law passed where something, be it ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ once a show or movie [has been given] some sort of accolade, it can be shut,” Waters told Variety‘s “My Favorite Episode” podcast. “You’re not allowed to touch this. Leave it alone.”
Waters’ suggestion: Just re-release a DVD of the original instead. “Don’t change it,” he added. “I’m trying to think of one thing where I’m so glad they rebooted that, and I can’t think of one.”
He doesn’t find anything wrong with homages or tributes, however, which is why “Drunk History” has played around in that space. The series’ episode “Are You Afraid of the Drunk?” is a play on the 1990s children’s horror series “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” and just landed Waters an Emmy nomination for outstanding directing for a variety series.
Waters’ pick for favorite episode is the pilot to “The Wonder Years.” Written by Neal Marlens and Carol Black and directed by Steve Miner, the episode first aired after the Super Bowl on January 31, 1988. The show won the Primetime Emmy award for outstanding comedy series in 1988 after just six episodes.
The pilot’s plot centers on young Kevin Arnold, his family, his best friend, Paul, and his crush-turned-girlfriend “Winnie” Cooper, whose brother dies in Vietnam. Kevin doesn’t know how to approach Winnie, and does it all wrong — but eventually apologizes, and the two share their first kiss. Storylines are told through Kevin’s reflections as an adult in his mid-30s, voiced by narrator Daniel Stern.
“It hits every note,” Waters said. “The pilot tells you everything. I’m going to love this story. The coolest kid in this neighborhood in the 60s has the cutest sister, that the main character has a crush on, who has a bully brother, the coolest kid in the neighborhood dies in Vietnam. Winnie Cooper, he puts his jacket around her and gets his first kiss to ‘When a Man Loves a Woman.’ Get out of here. That’s going to be a good show. I don’t care who won the Super Bowl.”
Waters fondly remembers growing up watching TV as a means to bond with his family. “It’s so hard to connect with any human being let alone your mom or dad and your brother and sister,” he said. “But the TV was something that brought you together. You’re watching a show like ‘The Wonder Years,’ you’re learning how people react. I get scared at today, the technology moving it further and easier to watch something by yourself. It’s so important to watch things with other people.”
As for “Drunk History,” the show was also nominated this year four outstanding variety sketch series for the fifth consecutive time. The show has 13 Emmy noms under its belt.
“Drunk History” features historic tales and stories, as recounted by celebrities and comedians while, yes, drunk. Recent episodes have featured Doug Jones narrating the story of Lawn Chair Larry Walters (Colin Hanks) and his journey into the sky with balloons attached to his lawn chair, and Allan McLeod’s tale of railroad construction worker Phineas Gage (Steve Agee), who survived an iron rod through his skull.
Other guests this season have included Vanessa Bayer, Paget Brewster, Sophia Bush, Josh Charles, Camille Chen, Emily Deschanel, Dave Foley, John Francis Daley, Zach Gilford, Tony Hale, Cheryl Hines, Minka Kelly, Justin Long, Ken Marino, Aubrey Plaza, Amber Ruffin, Kiele Sanchez, Frankie Shaw, Justice Smith, Martin Starr, David Wain, Steven Weber and Elijah Wood.
Currently in its sixth season, “Drunk History” hasn’t run out of topics to pursue, Waters (below) said, as he expands the world of what the show can tackle. “I can do fun stories and make the word ‘history’ a little broader,” he said. “It’s a different way of doing storytelling.”
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