At the FX TCA presentation in early August, John Landgraf revealed that 342 scripted series had aired in 2017, with the primary boost coming from streaming services as the likes of Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, Amazon continue their digital arms race. This puts the television industry on pace for 500 scripted series in 2017 when accounting for streaming, pay cable (e.g. HBO, Starz, Showtime, Cinemax, Epix, etc.), basic cable, and broadcast outlets, an increase from the 455 scripted series in 2016. And if the marketplace weren’t already crowded enough, Apple and Facebook have announced plan to get into the original content game – the former poaching Sony TV executives and the latter launching its Watch platform this past August after rescuing MTV comedy Loosely Exactly Nicole from cancellation.
All this is to say that television fans have a bit of a conundrum to deal with. On the one hand, there’s a whole lot of content out there for you and networks are, for the most part, taking chances that they wouldn’t even a few years ago. On the other, with so many new outlets trying to produce their own content and so much classic content available at the click of a mouse, there’s such a thing as too much choice, with the volume fans are bombarded with on a year-round basis proving to be overwhelming.
That’s where we here at KSiteTV come in. As you might expect, anybody who writes about TV watches a lot of it and therefore at least a few shows that got passed over by viewers for one reason or another. We know that nobody can keep track of every new show that comes down the pike, and we totally get that a rough pilot or an uninspiring trailer can make it easier to cut bait, so we’ll be recommending shows every Friday that we think you should catch up on through our new Binge This Show feature. Sometimes they’ll be current; sometimes they’ll be classic. Sometimes they’ll be poorly reviewed shows that are worth a second look; sometimes they’ll be shows that simply got lost in the shuffle. But what ties them all together is that they’re content that we think should get a little slice of your (increasingly) precious TV time.
Playing House (USA)
Cast: Jessica St. Clair (Review); Lennon Parham (Accidentally on Purpose); Keegan-Michael Key (Key & Peele); Zach Woods (Silicon Valley); and Brad Morris (Dice)
Creator(s): St. Clair and Parham, who previously collaborated on NBC comedy Best Friends Forever
Number of Episodes (So Far): 26, spread across three seasons
Similar Shows: Aside from Best Friends Forever, which shares some premise DNA and a general vibe of Playing House, the closest current analog might be Broad City for the way the two shows portray airtight friendships between women, though Playing House is like the grown-up, settled down alternative to the Comedy Central show. It also shares the huge beating heart and unapologetic romantic streak of The Mindy Project and the lived-in relationship of a Gilmore Girls.
Why You Should Binge: Between hurricanes, earthquakes, wild fires, Congress attempting to decimate health care, and the threat of nuclear war, among many other atrocities, 2017 has been a bit of a hot mess. It can be tough to keep in a positive frame of mind when there’s so much toxicity in the 24-hour news cycle and when the light at the end of the tunnel seems light years away; while the increasingly political bent entertainment has taken might be good for those who want to remain informed and see our society (both in its idealized and current forms) reflected back to them, sometimes what you need is a good bit of escapism to remind you that life can be good.
Enter USA buddy comedy Playing House, which stars real life best friends Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham as Emma and Maggie, two long-time friends who become even closer after the latter discovers that her husband is cheating during her pregnancy. Emma opts to move back to the hometown she fled decades ago and help her friend through the rest of the pregnancy and the beginnings of motherhood. As warm and sweet as a freshly baked brownie, Playing House is a watch that traffics in the relatable (yet specific) shorthand of Emma and Maggie’s complex connection, as you instantly feel the years they’ve known one another without being shut out of their inside jokes. Anyone who’s ever had a best friend stay in their life for an extended period of time can see themselves in the love Emma and Maggie have for each other, knowing what it’s like to have someone see you for who you really are and accepting it without reservation.
Playing something like platonic, looser Gilmore Girls, another show set in a sleepy Northeastern town populated by a colorful recurring cast of locals, Playing House quickly moves beyond the series set-up and becomes a comfortable character-focused look at how any change in life is made easier by the presence of someone you love. The majority of the show is St. Clair and Parham getting into hi jinx together and supporting one another through the tough times, which includes an incredibly moving cancer arc in the third season that masterfully avoids becoming emotionally manipulative while underlining the series ethos of living life to the fullest and not allowing fear to hold you back, while individual stories of St. Clair’s Emma revisiting a romance with local policeman Mark (Key) that fell apart when she left town and Parham’s Maggie finding the purpose in her professional life that had been missing showcase an understated optimism that’s necessary in troubled times. In the world of Playing House, which revels in emotional intimacy and the search for self-fulfillment, it’s never too late to life the life you want; any time is the best time to find yourself.
Especially if you have your best friend by your side along the way.
How You Can Binge: Every episode is available to stream through the USA site, the USA app, Seeso, and various On Demand outlets. You can buy the series through Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, and Google Play, while only the first season is available on DVD.
Shilo Adams is a contributor to KSiteTV who has written for the likes of TVOvermind, ScreenFad, and TVHackr. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @sda0918.