It's week two of the 2022-23 "traditional" television season -- an expression that really needs to go away, given that so little about television on the business or consumer side operates within the confines of the past, and those areas that still cling to it will have to give it up sooner or later. Take away MLB and the NFL and what makes this time of the year any more exciting than the rest, as far as television viewing is concerned?
I don't put much stock in anecdotes, but outside of the industry I haven't heard one word anywhere about any new broadcast series, or any returning shows, with the exceptions of ABC's Abbott Elementary (I have friends who are teachers) and CBS' Blue Bloods (still the show I am most often asked about by "real" people). Make of that what you will, but I remember a time when the arrival of a new television season had everyone buzzing well beyond the boundaries of New York City and Los Angeles.
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And so it is that, like most people, I am finding it almost impossible to tear myself away from streaming shows and cable programs after a summer of largely ignoring broadcast television (with the notable exception of NBC's reliably fabulous America's Got Talent). I celebrate the return of CBS' Ghosts, which made the No. 1 position on my Top 25 Programs of 2021 list. (No matter how good it's second season is, though, it won't enjoy that honor again this year, as I have already named my No. 1 show of 2022.) And I'm still enjoying Fox's 9-1-1 -- like its companion series 9-1-1: Lone Star one of the most satisfying character-driven action-dramas on television.
As you know, my other autumn essential -- Dancing with the Stars -- has left broadcast (ABC) for streaming (Disney+). I don't think the move has done the show, the network or the streamer any good. (The same can be said for the move of Days of Our Lives from NBC to Peacock.) I still say Dancing should have remained where it was, and that this was a change nobody wanted. I haven't caught every minute of the two Disney+ telecasts so far, but nothing I have seen has been as entertaining as those frisky TikTok videos featuring partners Shangela and Gleb rehearsing backstage.
Meanwhile, despite all the marketing and attention going toward a number of high-profile original streaming series of late, from Prime Video's Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power to HBO's House of the Dragon to Netflix's Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story (a deeply disturbing real-life chiller with yet another fascinating performance by Evan Peters in the title role) -- the series that pulled me away from all others this month is Merli: Sapere Aude, a humble and heartfelt import from Spain. It's about a young bisexual philosophy student coming to terms with love, sex, relationships and family matters while navigating various challenges among his friends and family members and bonding with an alcoholic professor with multiple challenges of her own. It is not an overstatement to assert that Merli: SA puts every youth-ensemble drama series on American television to shame. Carlos Cuevas (pictured above), who stars as Pol Rubio (and can currently be seen in The CW's Leonardo), is nothing short of sensational in the lead role.
Staying with streaming, Hulu's delightful Reboot can take its place alongside Abbott Elementary, Ghosts and Apple TV+'s Ted Lasso as one of the smartest comedies currently on television. A lot of thought went into the basic narrative of this show, which has great fun with the industry's unfortunate fixation with relaunching, rebooting, remaking or reviving classic TV programs of yesteryear. (A few of them have been okay; the rest have been unbearable.) If only those shows were as entertaining as this one.
Cynical indie screenwriter Hannah Korman successfully pitches a contemporary revival of the early 2000s family sitcom Step Right Up to programmers at Hulu (meta much?) featuring the original cast (who went from being big stars to mostly train wrecks in the years since the show ended). The stories of the actors navigating a second shot at success are funny enough, but the real comedy gold here comes in scenes set in the Step writers' room, where woke Millennials of questionable talent and experience clash with talented (and unapologetically not woke) veteran scribes as they assemble scripts. Oh, and there's a big twist in the central storyline. (No spoilers here.) The cast includes Keegan-Michael Key (pictured at top), Judy Greer, Johnny Knoxville, Rachel Bloom and Paul Reiser.
Reboot owes a debt to the nostalgia that young adults who grew up watching ABC's TGIF lineup and, perhaps, various silly sitcoms on Disney Channel feel when they think about those shows. For some of us, referring to shows from the late '90s and early aughts as "classics" of "yesteryear" doesn't come easy. All I'll say on the subject is that the older I get the more grateful I am that I came of age watching All in the Family, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, The Odd Coupleand M*A*S*H. Those were the days.
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