TV keeps teetering between two extremes – comedy is king and comedy is dead.
Now we’re at the latter. Laughs are scarce … except on Thursdays, when they reach excess.
Now the best ones are back: After a four-week break, CBS’ Thursday comedies have new episodes Jan. 21. Three are very funny (including “B Positive,” shown here), one is adequate, all are welcome.
And all are in a tough time for situation comedies. As Variety, the trade paper, put it: “Three episodes of CBS’ ‘Young Sheldon’ were the only sitcoms to make this year’s list of top 100 telecasts with total viewers. Among adults 18-49, there were none.”
That involves individual episodes (putting them against specials, football and more), but it’s a sharp drop. A few years ago, “The Big Bang Theory” ruled; now its prequel is the only sitcom to pierce the top 100. But we’ve seen this before.
In 1985, people felt sitcoms had faded; CBS has only three on its fall line-up. Two years later, sitcoms were the top seven shows in the Nielsen ratings. In 1997, NBC had 18 sitcoms, including four-comedy blocks on four straight nights.
If you look around, you’ll find a few good comedies now. Ted Danson has had two on NBC — “The Good Place” and now “Mr. Mayor” (8 p.m. Thursdays). Fox has its Sunday cartoons, led by “The Simpsons” at 8. ABC has shows – “The Conners” at 8 p.m. Wednesdays, “Black-ish” and “Mixed-ish” at 9 and 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays – that can be fairly funny while also having something to say.
And there’s that CBS line-up, which shouldn’t surprise us. Three of the four shows are by Chuck Lorre, who also does “Bob (Hearts) Abishola” – which has a terrific episode at 8:30 p.m. Monday (Jan. 25). The Jan. 21 shows are:
“Young Sheldon” (8 p.m.). Sheldon has finally convinced his parents to let him go to college … partly because John Sturgis – his friend and his grandmother’s ex-boyfriend – will be there to guide him. But now Sturgis has left; orientation is a disaster … in fairly funny ways.
“B Positive” (8:30). There are still roadblock to Gina donating a kidney to Drew. She must stay clean and sober … and must pass her psych exam. The latter part comes up now, in another episode that gets great work from Annaleigh Ashford (shown herein the pilot film) as Gina. TV viewers know Ashford as Betty the prostitute in “Masters of Sex,” but she’s biggest onstage – seven Broadway shows, a Tony for “You Can’t Take It With You” and a nomination for “Kinky Boots.” As usual, she’s superb here.
“Mom” (9 p.m.). The show has slipped a tad since Anna Faris (who played Christy) left, but it still ripples with humor. This time, Jill is distraught about her crumbling romance with Andy, a burly cop. The episode gets his best laughs from Adam. As Andy’s friend and Bonnie’s husband, he’s in the middle of this, with no real grasp of the social subtleties involved.
“The Unicorn” (9:30). Wade finally introduces his new girlfriend to his friends. It’s a so-so episode that does end with some big laughs … a good finish to a terrific night of comedy.