A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Connecting... is a sitcom set during the COVID-19 pandemin. It's remotely filmed with characters interacting in the form of a filmed video chat. COVID-19 is referred to often, visually and in dialogue: characters worry about getting sick, about staying safe, about what their world will be like when and if the pandemic ever ends. One character is a nurse in New York during the worst of that city's coronavirus wave and cries as she talks about seeing people get sick and die and the terrible choices caregivers have to make. Other characters are bored and lonely at home, taking up odd hobbies and getting entertainment where they can: cooking, watching old TV shows. Watching them struggle in ways that the audience will relate to is therapeutic and comforting; viewers will get the feeling they're not alone in their actions and emotions. Characters drink onscreen (sipping liquor from the bottle, sharing wine over dinner) but no one acts drunk. One character orders CBD gummies (cannabis products are legal in California where she lives), but we don't see her take them. Language is infrequent: "son of a bitch," "hell," "bitch." The cast is diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and gender identity, with a trans character who is never reduced to being a token and who has a full, rich life of which her gender identity is only one part. Characters talk about sex, loneliness, and being "horny."
What's the story?
At a time when COVID-19 keeps most people in America confined at home, CONNECTING... has never felt so important. And so a group of longtime friends tune in faithfully for their online hangouts, keeping in touch with each other as they shelter in place at home. Michelle (Jill Knox) and Garrett (Keith Powell) are having a great time hanging out together at home, while Ben (Preacher Lawson) is lonely and smarting from a recent breakup, and Annie (Otmara Marrero) wishes she could find the courage to ask him to move into her germ pod. Pradeep (Parvesh Cheena) has to hide in a closet to find the time to talk without being distracted by his noisy brood of children, while Rufus (Eli Henry) worries that his friends don't take the virus seriously enough. And Jasmine's a nurse in New York City as the coronavirus' scope first becomes terribly clear. The quarantine isn't easy on anyone, but it's better getting through it together.
Is it any good?
If nothing else, this remotely filmed sitcom is a fascinating time capsule of a very odd time, and improbably, good writing and acting actually wring some charm out of a strained scenario. The very idea of a TV comedy in which none of its characters can actually get together and leave the house sounds horrendous, and way too much like the lives real people are already living in the age of COVID-19. But just as those same real-life people have found that getting together over Zoom or Google Meet with friends is an imperfect, but not totally worthless, substitute for the real thing, they may find that Connecting... has value, and is actually pretty engaging.
For one thing, it's a total kick to see people on TV voicing the problems we're all having. Pradeep has discovered, to his dismay, that he doesn't actually like his kids very much. Ben, recently dumped by his ex, is practically dying of loneliness; he cops to dressing up his jujitsu dummy and eating lunch with it. Annie can't stop ordering stuff online; Ellis (Shakina Nayfack) is heartbroken over the loss of professional sports; worst of all, Jasmine is a healthcare worker in New York, struggling desperately through the first brutal wave of the virus. She gives a long monologue in the pilot about her horrific experiences in the coronavirus ward that's so detailed and brutal it brings the whole cast to tears. On the other hand, Michelle and Garrett are having the time of their lives, making homemade ramen and pickles, gardening, homesteading in general, really. "Quarantine is super dope!" Michelle enthuses. The contrast between their lives and Jasmine's is incredible -- and rings true. Connecting... is not the funniest sitcom ever made, but viewers will see themselves reflected, and in a time when many people feel adrift and alone, that's worth something.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the unusual format for this sitcom, in which each cast member is filmed alone (with the exception of a married couple). What are the limitations of this type of setup? What are the advantages? What type of storytelling does the premise restrict and enable? Does a show have to have in-person interactions to be funny and worth watching?
This show leans into the realism of quarantine, and its cast expresses problems and emotions quarantined viewers are likely to relate to: feeling shut-in and lonely, the fear of getting sick, the upsides of spending lots of time at home. Does the realism make the humor funnier? More relatable? Or does it make the laughs uncomfortable?
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