As long as the city is on PAUSE, we're going to publish a guide every week offering different TV viewing recommendations—you can catch up with our wide variety of previous recommendations, from baseball series to immersive dramas to classic comedies, at this link. Below, some recommendations for our eleventh week of social isolation:
Created by stand-up comedian Ramy Youssef, the first season of Ramy was an intimate look at life as a Muslim-American millennial. It was clearly indebted to similar auteurist cinematic comedies like Atlanta and Louie, and shared those shows' ambitions to be funny, surprising and poignant in its storytelling. A lot of its most memorable moments came when it made giant leaps, like a flashback episode set right after the 9/11 attacks; an episode about Ramy's sister Dena and the double-standards of dating; a two-episode trip to Egypt; and best of all, a showcase for Ramy's unfulfilled mom Maysa, played exquisitely by Succession's Hiam Abbass, as she becomes a Lyft driver.
The second season, which premieres on Hulu on Friday, is just as good, and at times even better, than that wonderful first season, cementing its status as one of the absolute best shows currently on television. Ramy continues to struggle with reconciling his spiritual interest with his secular urges, this time with a new Sufi leader guiding him, played by two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali. There are also wonderful standalone episodes devoted to the rest of his family—in addition to his mother and sister, that now includes his father and uncle. If you only watch one new show this week, make it this one.
It's an irresistible pitch on paper: television comedy legend Steve Carrell re-teaming with The Office co-creator Greg Daniels for a new Netflix workplace comedy based on Trump's idiotic idea for a sixth military force, with lots of real-world parodies to boot. Then throw in an absolutely killer supporting cast that includes (deep breath) John Malkovich, Ben Schwartz, Diana Silvers, Lisa Kudrow, Jimmy O. Yang, Jessica St. Clair, Tawny Newsome, Noah Emmerich, Diedrich Bader, Jane Lynch, Patrick Warburton and the late Fred Willard. All that adds up to the next great sitcom, right?
Not quite. Space Force, which premieres on Friday on Netflix, isn't a total failure like some have argued, but it seems like a show that is still figuring out its tone and characters throughout its ten episode first season. At times it wants to be a piercing satire on our current political moment, sometimes it wants to channel sincere, inspirational space films, and other times it's trying to be a classic workplace comedy. The supporting cast is so good, especially Malkovich, but it feels like some people aren't getting much material to work with because of the sheer volume of funny people involved. Carrell is still righteously funny at times, but his character, a straight-laced military figure, is also frustrating in a way that, despite the writers clearly trying to distance this show from The Office, immediately made me think of a gravel-voiced Michael Scott.
The show still has tons of potential to get the balance right in season two, and there are enough funny moments and actors to justify giving it a view now—but don't expect a comedy classic out of the gate.
Bob's Burgers, which is about to enter its eleventh season (!), remains the best show about a loving family of weirdos on television (animated or not). Bob's picks up on all the sweetness and absurdity (and musicality!) of the first seasons of The Simpsons, but grounds those stories with a family unit who actually really like spending time with each other and accept each other's foibles. So creator Loren Bouchard has built up a lot of good will with me, which is why I was so excited about his new animated musical comedy, Central Park, which premieres on AppleTV+ this Friday. (Three episodes drop this week, then new installments of the 10-episode first season will begin weekly thereafter.)
The show revolves around a park manager and his family, who live in an old castle in Central Park, and its voice cast includes Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Tituss Burgess, Kristen Bell, Daveed Diggs, Kathryn Hahn and Stanley Tucci, who plays the villainous rich old woman who wants to pave over the park and turn it into real estate. If you're a fan of Bob's—and particular its original songs—I would strongly suggest checking this one out. If Bob's is a family comedy with some incredible musical moments, then I would say this show is a very wonderful musical with some occasional comedy. While it's not necessarily as great as Bob's immediately—and honestly, what could be?—it retains the same sweetness as that show, and through its first couple episodes, is already starting to develop a strong NYC identity to boot (like the character who works for "the No. 1 most left-on-the-subway paper in the city").