If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of TV comedy. So, it also won’t be a surprise that most of the shows that I watch regularly are sitcoms as well. With that in mind, I’m going to talk about the dramas first, to get it out of the way.
This Is Us
The only returning drama that I’ve seen this season has been last year’s big success story. In its second season, This Is Us continues to tell the story of three adult triplets, the loved ones in their lives, as well as flashing back to the story of their parents and the ups and downs of experiences that brought them all to their present lives. In particular, the past poses a big mystery around Jack (the father), who died some time between now and then. Most episodes tease us with hints about what happened, and the season 2 premiere is no exception. Meanwhile, we continue to learn about Jack and Rebecca’s big fight from season 1 and a few more surprises come out of that. Picking up some of the story twists at the end of last season, Kate pursues her singing career, but fights hard against her insecurities each step of the way. Randall pursues his wish to adopt a child, but learns that his wife Beth has a lot of misgivings. This show hits the ground running by pulling our heart strings and promises many more tear-jerking moments to come.
The Good Place
This fresh new sitcom ended last season with a doozy of a revelation that turned the entire series premise on its head. This season picks up almost immediately after, but then proceeds to keep going with change-ups to hilarious effect. This is the last time I’m going to protect last season’s spoilerific twist, so I’m just going to say that the original story about a selfish woman who mistakenly ends up in heaven has taken on a whole new set of issues. The four main resident characters are still fun to watch, especially Manny Jacinto as Jason Mendoza (a dim-witted former DJ from Florida), playing it as thick as ever. This is probably one of the most unique and fresh sitcoms around (except for perhaps Rick and Morty) and I enjoy not knowing where the story is going any more. I have faith that it will be surprising and fun.
Will & Grace
In contrast to the innovativeness of The Good Place, a couple of sitcoms are returning from the cancellation graveyard this year, and the first to show up is Will & Grace. As much as I enjoyed this show (it was one of my faves in its prime), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when it came back 11 years after it left. The creators have tried to gloss over all the epilogue-ish stories that were tacked on in the series finale and return the main characters to the same apartment with the same interactions and clever banter. Unfortunately they still have a bit of work to do to get back there. The first episode seemed a bit preoccupied with proving that they are in 2017, tossing in gratuitous references to things like Grindr, and being “woke”. (And what is with Grace’s new employee? He does not fit in at all!) Since it was the 10-minute election-themed short episode that got the wheels turning on this revival, they naturally had to include a storyline about politics. However, it still ended in the kind of silly place (pillow fight in the Oval Office — intrigued?) that I did not love in many of the later episodes of the first run. Don’t get me wrong, I still love that the show is back, but I think they’ll need to step things up a bit, comedy-wise, if they want to hold our attention as the nostalgia fades.
The Mindy Project
I can’t decide whether I love or hate the quirky supporting characters, but I feel that they have been getting closer to the front of the stage with each year. Now they have played so much of a role that they’ve been pulling focus from Mindy’s (completely mis-matched) marriage to nurse Ben. Perhaps the writers just didn’t have many ideas to go with Mindy’s marriage, so they have now quickly tanked it and Mindy’s on her way to being divorced again. Either that or (since this is the last season of the show) they want to make room for Mindy’s first husband, Danny, to come back into the picture. Either way, I hope they get back to focusing on Mindy and her life rather than all the nutsos at the clinic. I think it will be a nice way to wrap up the series.
The second season of this brash family comedy about JJ DiMeo, a teenager with cerebral palsy, and his no-nonsense family, already established its characters really well in the first season. Now it’s fun to see them deconstruct themselves while JJ’s away at camp and they evolve into different people in his absence. I’m hoping that this season will start to move on from setting up all the characters and start to focus on some interesting situations for the DiMeo family. One of my favourite episodes last season had the whole family stuck in a grocery store for the entire episode. I think the worst thing they can do now is to keep resetting the characters back to their same selves. At least middle-child Ray has got a sweet girlfriend now, and I hope there are more changes to come.
This cop sitcom does a great job of ending the season with some big situations. This season starts with Detectives Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) and Rosa Diaz (Stephanie Beatriz) in prison after they were framed for a crime by a corrupt lieutenant at the end of last season. It usually takes a few episodes for things to go back to normal, so the first episode still has Jake in jail. His cellmate is a cannibal murderer who eats children, so that’s a bit of a comedic misfire, but the characters on this show still make a wonderful ensemble and I’m looking forward to things moving back to the precinct when they figure out how to get Jake and Rosa back. At least they need to do that before this year’s Halloween heist competition episode rolls around again.
As they have done in seasons-past, Modern Family picks up with the Dunphy-Pritchett family during their summer vacation, this year in a house-boat on the lake. For laughs they also throw in the recent solar eclipse as a plot point, but it’s just a way for the story to put the family in a confined space and close together before the kids have to go back to school. I’m hoping they continue to evolve this show after its many seasons, as most of the kids have moved into college-age and adulthood. The show is evolving into a grown-up sitcom and I’m not quite sure it knows how to be that. Either that or they have to start shining the spotlight on the clan’s youngest members: Lily (they have yet to give her any significant screen time) and Joe (I still don’t enjoy his scenes, especially not his deliberate and contrived “cuteness”). I love this series, but as many have said, it’s outlived its freshness and needs a bit of a reboot itself.
The Big Bang Theory
While being just as long in the tooth as Modern Family, I think Big Bang has been able to evolve itself a bit more over the years. Last season ended with a surprising marriage proposal from Sheldon to Amy, and even though I think there’s little doubt about the answer, it’s a little exciting to see where this change will take the show. Despite Penny and Leonard’s marriage being less of a shake-up than it might have been, I have high hopes for what Shamy-engaged will do. Along with the proposal hubbub, another big surprise came as Bernadette found herself pregnant again. With all the growing up and changes coming to this group of friends, I really hope that means that Leonard, Penny, and Raj will also get some meaty life/character events as well. I’m a bit tired of the joke of Penny divorcing Leonard and poor Raj’s continued failure in love (even though he’s had some pretty nice girlfriends so far).
Another family sitcom that I picked up last season: I enjoy the no-nonsense mom that Katie Otto is (played by Katy Mixon). I also like the son, Oliver, who’s basically a pre-pubescent Alex Keaton (from Family Ties). A lot of the emphasis on the show has been about how Katie doesn’t fit in with the rich moms of Westport, Connecticut with their fitness and pretension. However, in the premiere, Katie has a realization that she’s being too judgmental and has a mea culpa moment with the PTA, landing her the dreaded job of organizing the school’s spring gala. I think this is a great way to keep her looped in with the school, but I hope the other moms don’t remain so stereotypical this season. I loved it when Katie developed a couple of nemesis moms last season. Let’s bring them back!
I have a warm feeling for this series about a Toronto convenience store owner and his family, and I’m glad that it’s back again for more episodes in the life of the Kims. The first season started with a bit too much of that Canadian politically-correct humour and faux-progressiveness. I think the show really shone when it focused on the family and their interactions and their story. The second season began with daughter Janet’s attempt to move out, but it was not as easy as it initially seemed. I hope this change will bring a nice new element to the family dynamic. Similarly, I hope there is more opportunity for Mr. Kim and his son Jung to encounter each other and make some progress towards reconciliation. Their estrangement has made for an interesting thread throughout episodes so far, but it’s nice that there have been a few brief moments that show that hope is far from lost between father and son. There is potential for Kim’s Convenience to grow beyond its sitcom start and rediscover some of the dramatic depth of its origins on the stage.
Now that I’ve picked up so many sitcoms to watch, I’m not really sure why I still keep watching this show. I was not a fan of the first series, so it’s not for the many call-backs to the original family classic. This latest season (which I essentially binge-watched over a single weekend — Curse you, Netflix!) continues with the same antics and cutesy family plots of the first two seasons. The characters are generally likeable enough, but the silliness has been amped up as they prepare for the wedding of Steve and CJ. The midseason finale had a big predictable cliffhanger as DJ inadvertently admitted that she had chosen Steve as her boyfriend when she had a sleep mask on, meanwhile, her actual boyfriend Matt was getting ready to propose to her on the other side of the plane. Oh Mylanta!
So, thanks for sticking with me through all those sitcoms. As you can tell, the season is off to a roaring start with the comedies. Hopefully there will be a few new ones that prove themselves worthy of returning and being picked up as classics as well. Who knows, they might even go long enough to be cancelled and revived a decade later! Anyway, stay tuned for more Fall TV summaries.