For a year and a half now, we’ve been more or less confined to our homes or simply sticking closer to home because of the pandemic. And even people who claim they don’t watch TV have tuned in more than they’ll admit.
We’ve streamed a lot of shows online, and more viewers are watching programs produced outside of the broadcast TV model. As for traditional networks, they managed to produce and air more original programming last season than I expected, but not as much as usual.
This season, we’re promised, will be pretty much back to normal. Given the struggles of broadcast TV these days, that’s not altogether good news. But, at the same time, it’s just plain dumb to reject a show simply because it’s on broadcast TV.
There’s some good stuff that some people would rush to stream if it was given the flashy, online premiere we’ve now come to expect. (And sure, everything on broadcast TV streams on one service or another these days. Eventually.)
But you don’t have to wait that long. I promise it’s still possible to just turn on your TV.
There are several new things coming this week, and while some of them are just awful, there are a few that are definitely worth checking out.
The good ...
“Muhammad Ali” (Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 7 p.m., PBS/Ch. 7) • Ken Burns’ latest documentary — which runs eight hours over four nights — will tell you things you never knew about the legendary boxer’s fascinating life.
“The Big Leap” (Monday, 9 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13) • The premise of this sounds pretty dumb. It’s about a bunch of regular people who audition for a TV reality/dance show, hoping to make the cast of “Swan Lake.” The show is a weird mix of uplifting/inspirational stories and the darker parts of humanity as the show-within-a-show’s producers exploit regular folks for TV. Yet … somehow, it works.
“Ordinary Joe” (Monday, 9 p.m., NBC/Ch. 5) • Another dumb-sounding premise that somehow sticks its landing. A man named Joe (James Wolk) lives in three separate realities — in one he’s a rock star; in another, he’s a nurse; and in yet another, he’s a police officer. It’s three stories of how the same person’s life can end up being very different, and all three make for compelling viewing.
“The Wonder Years” (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4) • This reimagined version of “The Wonder Years” is excellent, even if — or perhaps because — it doesn’t have anything to do with world of the 1988-93 original. (That series’ original star, Fred Savage, is a producer/director of this reboot.) The series focuses on a Black family in 1968, and it’s very good. I just hope it’s not too good to succeed on network TV.
The bad ...
“Our Kind of People” (Tuesday, 8 p.m., Fox) • Hey, I love me a good prime-time soap. And I would love nothing more than to see a drama with a predominantly Black cast succeed. But this is a confusing, unoriginal mess. Worse, it’s often just plain stupid. (My big, unanswered question for the production crew: If you saw the legs off a table, why does the sawdust end up on top of the table?)
“Alter Ego” (Wednesday, 8 p.m., Fox) • The “Masked Singer” is, at best, tedious and dopey. And it looks great compared to “Alter Ego”. Instead of celebrities wearing masks, we get regular people performing out of sight while judges see CGI avatars. Whatever. But the show takes itself so seriously it’s just unbearable.
And the soon-to-be-forgotten ...
73rd Annual Prime-Time Emmy Awards (Sunday, 6 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) • You’ve got to really be into TV to watch this awards show, which is generally rather dull. Cedric the Entertainer hosts.
“NCIS: Hawaii” (Monday, 9 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) • It’s sort of “NCIS: Meh.” If you’re a fan of the other incarnations, you’ll probably like this one. And in case you haven’t re-watched “Lost” while you’ve been stuck at home, Hawaii is gorgeous.
“FBI: International”(Tuesday, 9 p.m., CBS/Ch. 2) • It’s another “FBI.” It’s not bad. And it’s actually filmed in Europe, which is pretty cool. It concludes a full night of “FBI” on CBS, following the original at 7 p.m. and “FBI: Most Wanted” at 8 p.m.