‘Con­nect­ing’ tries quar­an­tine com­edy

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - OPINION - BY KEVIN MCDONOUGH Con­tact Kevin McDonough at kevin .tvguy@gmail.com.

Cre­at­ing tele­vi­sion while ob­serv­ing so­cial dis­tance is dif­fi­cult. And that’s per­haps the rea­son why “Con­nect­ing” (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) may rep­re­sent the “best” we can hope for dur­ing this pe­cu­liar pe­riod, which is a lit­tle sad.

As the ti­tle im­plies, it’s about a group of youngish friends shar­ing jokes and con­cerns via Zoom­like apps. The se­ries was pro­duced en­tirely on the iPhones of each cast mem­ber. While the pro­duc­tion val­ues are DIY, the jokes and sit­u­a­tions are scripted.

The sit­com as­pect en­sures, or rather in­sists, that nearly all of the jokes and sit­u­a­tions con­cern a very defined and metic­u­lously di­verse group of young adults. This has been ter­ri­tory for sit­coms, par­tic­u­larly NBC sit­coms, since the ad­vent of “Se­in­feld.” But even that show made great comic use of the char­ac­ters’ par­ents and their ex­tended cir­cle of re­tired neigh­bors. Too many sit­coms cre­ated in the decades since have de­picted 20- and 30-some­things as if they dwell on their own spe­cial planet.

Lim­it­ing a Zoom com­edy to the usual “Friends” de­mo­graphic seems to be a missed op­por­tu­nity. The most re­veal­ing and hu­mor­ous as­pects of video chats are when un­sus­pect­ing fam­ily mem­bers barge into the pic­ture. The best ex­am­ple of that took place well be­fore COVID, when the since-nick­named “BBC Dad” had his report on a Korean cri­sis pho­to­bombed by his tod­dler daughter.

On the other hand, it’s dif­fi­cult to “script” such spon­tane­ity. Bot­tom line: Blend­ing the drea­ri­ness of so­cial dis­tanc­ing with the phoni­ness of scripted sit­coms is not a win­ning com­bi­na­tion.

› A chef makes con­fec­tions from a “cursed” cook­book on the 16th sea­son pre­miere of “Good Eats” (9 p.m., Food, TV-G), en­ti­tled “The House That Dripped Choco­late.”

› A young man (Gio­vanni Ribisi) joins an un­scrupu­lous bro­ker­age firm tar­get­ing naive in­vestors in the 2000 drama “Boiler Room” (8 p.m., Sho2), writ­ten and di­rected by Ben Younger and fea­tur­ing a game cast in­clud­ing Vin Diesel, Nia Long, Ben Af­fleck, Tom Everett Scott, Ron Rifkin and Jamie Kennedy. Part of an evening of movies about young men tak­ing le­gal and

moral short­cuts on their way to quick riches, in­clud­ing “Easy Money” (6:55 p.m., MoMax), “Rounders” (9 p.m., MoMax) and “Good­fel­las” (7 p.m., Para­mount, TV-14).

› Seth My­ers takes his “Closer Look Thurs­day” ( 8: 30 p. m., NBC, TV-14) seg­ment to prime time. For the unini­ti­ated, he of­fers a live ru­mi­na­tion on the most re­cent events in the pres­i­den­tial race, now down to its fi­nal “un­scripted” weeks.

OTHER HIGH­LIGHTS

› The Chicago Bears host Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8 p.m., Fox).

› The Time Lord trav­els on a new episode of “Doc­tor Who” (8 p.m., BBC Amer­ica).

› A chim­ney fire al­most con­sumes the house on the 10th sea­son pre­miere of “Alaska: The Last Fron­tier” (8 p.m., Dis­cov­ery, TV-14).

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