My TV-watching buddy Shaune says of “This Is Us”: “Even when it’s happy, it’s sad.” That contradictory statement perfectly sums up TV’s most emotionally draining show, which is up to its usual tricks in this week’s Season 3 premiere, “Nine Bucks.” Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) sit in his car after a horrible first date in 1972, but Rebecca is won over because of the way he looks at her. It’s the definition of a happy romantic scene.
“Manifest” (10 p.m. Eastern Mondays on NBC) isn’t quite the “What does it all mean?” “Lost”-style mystery I thought it would be. Then again, it’s not exactly original, either. It’s just that the TV shows it reminds me of are different ones than I had assumed.
The Diablo Cody/Jason Reitman “Tully” – now available for home viewing – eventually won me over by being a quality film, but I was initially peeved that it uses the same title as one of the best pictures of 2002. But on the other hand, maybe this new “Tully” will draw fresh attention to the original “Tully,” which has become a forgotten gem in part because it was never a major release to begin with and in part because a lot of its talent didn’t attain the spotlight they should have.
It’s easy to see why “Like Father” went straight to Netflix (the modern equivalent of straight-to-video) rather than getting a theatrical release, but fans of Kristen Bell and/or Kelsey Grammer will still find this light comedy to be mildly charming. The feature-length writing-directing debut from Lauren Miller Rogen, it portrays a workaholic woman, Rachel (Bell), who reconnects with her dad, Harry (Grammer), after being left at the altar by a man who realizes she loves only her job.
From “Juno” (2008) to “Young Adult” (2011) to this year’s “Tully,” writer Diablo Cody – with Jason Reitman directing – has put together a spiritual trilogy of films about transitional periods in life, and they are always jarring. Juno is a teenager who is about to have a baby, Mavis is an adult who clings to her youth at the expense of everything else, and in “Tully” (now available for home viewing), Marlo is a mom who is exhausted from raising her three children.
Ah, a tale of a kid who feels like an outsider. It’s not exactly untapped territory for a movie, yet comedian Bo Burnham, in his assured debut as a writer-director, approaches this material with tones and angles that haven’t been put together quite like this before. In “Eighth Grade,” Burnham writes from the heart about his own experiences as an eighth-grader, but the character emerged on the page as a girl, Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher, who has a tremendous career ahead of her), and in present day.
“Life Sentence” (9 p.m. Eastern Wednesdays, CW) is notable for being a rare CW show not based on comic books or the supernatural, and unfortunately it’s also notable for being really bad. You’d think there’d be something special about it if the network is willing to push aside its DC superheroes for a whole hour, but the premiere episode plays like one of those unaired pilots you’d come across on YouTube and then say “Ah, so that’s why it wasn’t picked up.”
Not to be confused with TV’s “X-Men” series “The Gifted,” “Gifted” made a blip in movie theaters in April (it’s available via Redbox and streaming), but it’s worth checking out for those who enjoy sweet little family dramas with good performances, dashes of humor and beautiful Savannah, Ga., settings as a stand-in for Florida.
“Kevin (Probably) Saves the World” (8 p.m. Eastern Tuesdays on ABC) is both the most original show of the fall TV slate and very familiar. Let me explain: On one hand, there’s nothing else like it on TV now. On the other hand, it has many forebearers in the genre of supernatural beings influencing a normal person’s actions. Or sometimes the main character is a supernatural being but appears to be normal.
Any discussion of the continuum of family dramas in TV history has to include the aptly named 1970s series “Family.” Although the premise is simple – it’s about a family of five in Pasadena – a quick investigation into the show’s genesis suggests it was original at the time: Producers Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg came up with the idea of an hour-long drama centered on the emotional life of a family, then playwright Jay Presson Allen wrote the pilot episode and Mike Nichols (“The Graduate”) also joined the team.