While my tastes are not undiscriminating, there are a number of shows I watch that fall outside the penumbra of “peak TV” that typically sees online commentary. Some are hidden gems, some are guilty pleasures, and some are just average shows that I happen to like. Since I doubt that the networks are making these shows just for me, there must be other people out there watching them, and maybe some of them frequent this very site. Based on that possibility, here is a sampling of mini-reviews and an opportunity to comment on some of the shows I’m keeping up with right now.
The Kids Are Alright (ABC, Tuesdays 8:30 Eastern)
This is a strange show. Presumably based on creator and narrator Tim Doyle’s childhood, it seems to want more than anything to be a 1970s Catholic version of The Goldbergs. The three episodes that have aired so far have been decently funny, but the show still seems to be struggling to figure out what it’s really about. The main through line seems to be 12 year old protagonist Timmy’s (Jack Gore) attempts to forge an identity as an artist/performer in defiance of the expectations of his working class family, but thus far they haven’t done much to sell the idea that that’s a goal for Timmy worth rooting for. It almost feels like they should have made Timmy gay; “arty kid = gay” is a cliche and I appreciate their subverting it, but it might have brought some much needed definition to the character and show as a whole.
As with any show with a cast of ten (well, one’s a baby), not everyone feels essential. I only know Mary McCormack from ER and The West Wing, so seeing her in a comic role as the mom is still causing me a bit of a boggle, but she is doing good work. I’m also enjoying Christopher Paul Richards as Timmy’s next older brother Joey; he was good as the patronizing brother in last year’s Me, Myself, and I and here he gets to do a slightly more lecherous variation on the theme. Apart from the oldest, who has some “finding himself” material after dropping out of the seminary, none of the other brothers have been given much to to do. But, as I say, overall it’s decently funny, and each episode has been better than the last so that’s a good sign.
Splitting Up Together (ABC, Tuesdays 9:30 Eastern)
There’s nothing wrong with Splitting Up Together that abandoning its entire premise wouldn’t fix. That premise is (sigh) that Lena and Martin have divorced after fifteen years of marriage. Because they can’t afford to sell the house, they continue to live together, switching off weeks where one stays in the house and takes care of their three kids while the other stays in the garage apartment and tries to live as a single person. Somehow it’s even more tedious than it sounds.
The problem is that Lena and Martin are played by charming actors Jenna Fischer and Oliver Hudson and are obviously still in love with each other and their intact family, so the whole show is an exercise in artificially keeping everyone unhappy. There was a ray of hope at the end of the first season when Lena and Martin seemed to reconnect, but for stupid stupid reasons that fell apart and now they’re more estranged than ever.
If Splitting Up Together is so bad, then why am I watching it? Well, apart from the parts that are terrible, it’s actually pretty good. It would be a perfectly fine family sitcom if it could just get out of its own damn way, so I keep tuning in to see if it can ever do that.
Young Sheldon (CBS, Thursdays 8:30 Eastern)
I know a lot of people hate Young Sheldon just for its connection to The Big Bang Theory. If continue to do this feature occasionally, I’ll probably devote future iteration to a full throated defense of both shows. But for right now, I just want to make two points:
- Young Sheldon‘s catchy theme song “Mighty Little Man” is by Steve Burns from Blue’s Clues. So, you know, that’s fun.
- It’s really worth watching the show just to see Annie Potts as Sheldon’s Meemaw paired with Wallace Shawn as her socially awkward paramour Dr. John Sturgis. Comedy gold.