Ghosts, Abbott Elementary School, Young Rock: Network comedy is back, baby!

What do the origin story of the world’s most famous wrestler, an inner-city elementary school, and a haunted bed and breakfast have in common?

They are three of the best comedies currently on TV. And perhaps shockingly, they are all broadcast on broadcast networks. You know, the channels for which you do not have to pay extra money? Which is on the air? Maybe you haven’t seen it in some time?

Network TV has been battered lately. Cable and broadcast platforms provide nicer, shinier, and more distorted options. Think Hulu’s Only the murders in the buildingHBO Max hostess and Apple TV + Ted Lasso. All great shows, but they also appear on three different premium platforms that require three different subscriptions.

Among the eight Emmy-nominated comedies last year, ABC’s blackish, which wraps up its eighth season on April 18, was the only one to be broadcast on network television. You have to go back to 2016 for a year when you garnered more than one comedy network. That year, both ABC modern family And blackish They were nominated.

Now for the first time in a while, the TV network presents programs that are not only popular with viewers, but also receive critical acclaim. While comics on paper couldn’t be more different, they all share a similar line: There is sweetness to these performances. There is no mean streak. They are not cynical. But it’s also not slapstick or saccharine.

lets take alook:

Abbott Elementary:
This ABC comedy set in downtown Philadelphia is one of the season’s biggest surprises. It’s the season finale that airs on April 12 but the show was picked up for season two on March 14 – a rarity in this day and age. The series was created by Quinta Bronson who plays second grade teacher Janine Tegos. a little like the deskBut with upbeat but realistic students and teachers, the series thrives on its impressive performance. Janelle James is one of the show’s superstars, ignorant director Ava Coleman, who we’ve learned blackmailed her way into the position, and seems to be more interested in her Instagram followers than her students. In the opening moments of Tuesday’s finale, she told the kids she needed the permission slips: “They better be real. I can tell if you faked Herbie Hancock.” When Janine corrects her that it’s John Hancock, she says, “Girl I know. I just say what I want.” The exchange is an excellent example of what makes the show tick. A clever play on words with pop culture throwbacks and the idea that Ava says only what she wants.

The show’s not-so-secret weapons are Sherly Lee Ralph and Lisa Ann Walter as veteran mentors Barbara Howard and Melissa Chimenti (Need to do anything? Melissa knows a man). Barbara and Melissa’s friendship and wisdom are the foundation of the show. Add the commandment they/will not be romantic between Janine and alternate teacher Gregory (Tyler James Williams), and all the ingredients needed for a successful comedy are there. Like any TV show, there’s a volitional commentary on disbelief (how do these teachers get so much time for lunch every day?) but it’s fundamentally about the elementary school experience and what it feels like to be responsible for little humans day in and day out is very much the case.

Young Rock:
In this NBC sitcom, Dwayne Johnson plays a fictional version of himself. Set in the year 2032 when Johnson is running for president (which, let’s be honest, doesn’t seem so farfetched), he interviews Randall Park (played by Randall Park). During the interview, Johnson recalled three periods of his youth. As a 10-year-old (Adrian Groulx), as a 15-year-old (Bradley Constant), and as a young adult (Ole Latukevo) trying to navigate college and a professional football career. It’s an intimate look at what made Johnson the star we know and love today starting with his parents: his mother, the practical and sober Ava (Stacy Liloa); and his father, Rocky (Joseph Lee Anderson), a professional wrestler who has mastered how to “do the trick.”

For anyone who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, the show is a fun ride down memory lane complete with beloved wrestlers of the era like Andre the Giant, The Iron Shiek, Junkyard Dog, and The Wild Samoans. But what really makes the show are the three notable actors who play young Dwayne Johnson. Not only do they look like they could grow up to be one of the most famous celebrities in the world, but they really give audiences an idea of ​​the touching moments in Johnson’s life that helped shape him. It’s also a look at wrestling as a profession and not a joke that many portray it. The overall interview structure can be awkward and, at times, the weak link of the show, but overall, the series puts a new spin on one of television’s most popular genres – the family sitcom.

Perhaps the biggest surprise this season is CBS ghostsIt is based on the British series of the same name. Sam (Rose McIver) and Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar) leave their city life behind when they inherit a country estate they decide to turn into a bed and breakfast. Sam quickly discovers that the property is haunted, and unlike Jay, she can see and communicate with all ghosts. Stemming from all different time periods – there’s Trevor (Ascher Grodman), a 90s Wall Street “greedy good” bro type, Isaac (Brandon Scott Jones) an 18th century militiaman, Pete (Ritchie Moriarty) the scout leader he directed By mistake a fellow scout (hence the arrow in his neck), hippie-era flower (Sheila Carrasco) to name a few – these ghosts make up an unlikely family. Sounds like a fool’s premise and make no mistake: it is. But by giving viewers ghosts from many different eras, the show’s humor can run an entire gamut (making Revolutionary War jokes and Y2k jokes hilarious) while providing truly touching stories. The show also recently solved one of its biggest mysteries of the TV season by pointing out to viewers why Trevor doesn’t have any pants. However, it was the friendships and bonding between the ghosts that really made the episode stand out (plus Jay’s really horrible negotiating skills). ghosts The season finale on April 21, but was renewed for a second season again in January.

Add in ABC’s Home Economics And years of wonderNBC grand crAnd American carsAnd kenan And for the first time in a long time, the answer to “What’s so funny?” They can be found as soon as you turn on the TV – no subscription required.

Amy Amatangelo, TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and member of the Television Critics Association. She was not allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow it Twitter (AmyTVGal).

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