Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Why You Should Be Watching... Part 3: Underrated Sitcom Round-Up
The current TV season is an embarrassment of riches, and the downside of this is it's easy for good shows to fall through the cracks. There are a few sitcoms struggling in the ratings that I'd like to entreat you to check out, especially if you're a Nielsen family. It's all in the name of good television, I'm sure you'll understand.
Ben and Kate, airing on FOX on Tuesdays at 8:30/7:30c, is the freshman of the bunch, and it's a wonderfully sweet and engaging little show. The title characters are brother and sister- she's a single mother and he's a perpetual underachiever who recently suffered a nasty breakup, and has moved in with her and her daughter. Nat Faxon as Ben is pretty consistently hilarious, but Lucy Punch as their friend BJ frequently steals the show, especially in her interactions with the daughter.
Happy Endings, on ABC Tuesday at 9/8c, premiered two seasons ago with the premise of a group of friends dealing with the fallout when one left the other at the altar. It has since mostly ignored its premise and rested entirely on a great ensemble and fast-paced goofy scripts. It's a nice arrangement- everyone is funny and talented, and while I particularly love Casey Wilson as the sociable Penny, it's been a genuine surprise to see Elisha Cuthbert emerge as a gifted comic performer. It's a reliable thirty minutes of unpretentious laughs every week, and while it's on against the also-very-good New Girl, it's the one that needs the numbers right now.
Don't Trust the B___ in Apartment 23, on ABC Tuesday at 9:30/8:30c, opened with a stupid title and a gimmicky premise but quickly became kind of awesome. The titular "B" is Chloe, played by Krysten Ritter, and the person who should not trust said B is the straight-laced June, played by Dreama Walker, and Chloe inevitably gets June into trouble with her partying, social hobnobbing, and frequent minor felonies. While part of the show's appeal is the absurdity of it (Ritter wielding a tranq gun in the season premiere was a beautifully strange image), there's a nice rapport between the two actresses, and it handles a female dynamic more believably than a lot of shows. Also James Van Der Beek is himself.
And then there's Parks and Recreation, on NBC on Thursdays at 9:30/8:30 after The Office, now in its fifth season so you people no longer have any excuse. Sure, the first season was not, as the French say, good. But in the space of that six episodes it quickly reinvented itself, and for the past two or three years has been pretty much on fire all the time. It's the most goofily sincere show on TV, with Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, a humble government worker with big dreams, doing her best to improve things in the dysfunctional town of Pawnee, Indiana. Knope is one of TV's great creations, utterly devoted to this insane little burg and having an endless enthusiasm that has yet to be dulled by the ugliness of politics. To add on the sugar, right now the show has not one but two super-cute relationships, between Leslie and the awesomely nerdy Ben (Adam Scott), and between apathetic April (Aubrey Plaza) and puppy-like Andy (Chris Pratt.) It's hilarious and sweet.
So set your DVRs if you have 'em, or just be prepared to do a lot of channel flipping, because it's way too easy to miss things in the current crowded prime-time schedule. I sometimes find myself wishing TV weren't quite this good so I could just watch movies every night, but the mood passes. A Golden Age like this can't last forever, so enjoy it while it lasts.