Television has already had a Golden Age of Drama – twice; and a Golden Age of Comedy – twice. And now? Maybe we’ll call this the Golden Week of Apple TV+.
That streaming service – often outspent and outshouted by Netflix and Disney and more – has two simultaneous successes. On Friday (July 23):
– “Ted Lasso” ((shown here) starts its second season, awash in nominations. It leads the Emmys with 20, including best comedy; it leads the Television Critics Association with five, including program of the year.
– “Schmigadoon” starts its second week. A giddy swirl of music, dance and comedy, it manages to celebrate musical-theater traditions at the same time that it mocks them.
Both are skillfully made, but in opposite ways. “Lasso” is subtle, “Schmigadoon” isn’t. “Lasso” could exist as a drama; “Schmigadoon” needs to inhabit its own silly world.
Apple launched its streaming service on Nov. 1, 2019, with A-list talent – Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell in “The Morning Show.” It also had a pair of science-fiction shows (“For All Mankind”) and (“See”), followed soon by rebooting Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories.”
It was a strong start … but then came the COVID shutdown. Since then, Apple has had its successes – “Mythic Quest,” “Mosquito Coast,” “Peanuts” projects – but nothing like these two:
Like “Brockmire,” this began as a fictional character created for a sports talk show. But Jim Brockmire was a brash presence, dominating every room; Lasso (Jason Sudeikis, shown here) is surprisingly gentle.
He’s an American who coaches football – the real kind, where you pick up the ball and throw it. As a cruel joke, Rebecca received this British “football” (soccer, actually) team from her cheating husband in a divorce settlement; then she hired Ted, expecting him to ruin the team.
But Ted is disarmingly decent. Soon, she liked the guy; so did the players.
Sudeikis developed the notion with Joe Kelly (a “Detroiters” creator), Brendan Hunt (who plays Ted’s oft-silent assistant) and Bill Lawrence, who has scored with “Scrubs,” “Cougar Town” and more.
Early in this new season, we follow many stories: There’s a bizarre tragedy, requiring the arrival of a therapist … And the mis-adventures of Jamie Tarrt, an abrasive player who left for a reality show … And the dating woes of Rebecca and her cheery PR person (Juno Temple), who’s gone from Jamie to Roy, a reluctantly retired star … And an ethical crisis for Sam, a young Nigerian.
In other hands, these could have been loud and jokey, but not here. One episode reminds us how much better the world would be if Colin Kaepernick had a Ted Lasso type as his coach. And how much better many shows would be if they had a Ted Lasso type as their star.
It really is possible to love something and mock it.
Cicely Strong and Keegan-Michael Key play doctors who have been together for years, without quite marrying. With their relationship fraying, they went on a retreat and stumbled into a village that has quirks: Everyone behaves like musical characters … and people can only leave after finding true love.
All the types are there – bad-boy carnie, pure-hearted school marm, rigid preacher’s wife, more. Each is willing to break into a solo … or link for a full production number.
And that’s the surprise: “Schmigadoon” mocks musical stereotypes … but it’s stuffed with song-and-dance numbers that are cleverly written and perfectly performed.
The show debuted July 16 with two episodes, ending with a crisis: Josh (played by Key, 50) was pushed toward proposing to a giddy teen (Dove Cameron, 25). Her dad was waving a shotgun, which Melissa (Strong) dismisses.
“They don’t kill people in musicals,” she explains. “Except ‘Oklahoma’ … and ‘Carousel’ … and …”
It may be time to take the musical-theater traditions seriously.