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'Connecting…' is a COVID-Era Comedy That Reflects the New World We're All Experiencing
October 8, 2020  | By David Hinckley

You knew it was only a matter of time before someone would create a sitcom that looks like a Zoom meeting.

Connecting…, an ensemble comedy show, makes its slightly delayed debut Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

A group of seven diverse Los Angeles friends used to get together in person. By the end of March, when we pick up the story, they can't do that anymore, so they meet on the Internet.

The eight episodes of Connecting… run chronologically, at first about a month apart, allowing us to track the group's drama through their responses to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on their lives, and the real-life events in the world outside.

At the end of May, for instance, the wry humor of their situations takes an abrupt turn to silent horror when they all hop on their phones and watch the video of George Floyd's death.

That doesn't turn Connecting… into a socio-political crusade. It does reflect, accurately, that life inside a pandemic can have the same extremes of light and dark as normal life.

The group includes some strange people and a couple of borderline stereotypes, but no one is a jerk, and we have no trouble empathizing with either their ongoing issues or the new ones triggered by the virus and the subsequent lockdown.

Ben (Preacher Lawson) has just broken up with his girlfriend, so he's living alone, and it soon starts to drive him nuts.

This provides an opening for his good friend Annie (Otmara Marrero) to make a move she's been contemplating for several years, except things don't break exactly as she had hoped.

Pradeep (Parvesh Cheena) announces early in the pandemic that while he used to love the kids he's raising with his partner, he now realizes that's because he was at work all day. Now that he's home with them all the time, he's decided they're monsters. He hides in the closet to complain about them to the rest of his friend group.

One of the amusing elements of Connecting… is that because all the actors are filmed in separate areas, using iPhones, we don't see the people they are referencing. We don't even hear them. We just see our characters looking at something off-camera.

We get a few sight gags. Rufus (Ely Henry), the most germophobic of the group, wears an evolving series of masks that look like something out of a 1950s drive-in movie second feature.

Some of those moments are juxtaposed hard against reports about the shortage of essential medical supplies at New York hospitals in the early days of the pandemic.

Then just as quickly, we can shift back to Ellis (Shakina Nayfack) complaining that the virus interrupted a strong season for her beloved Los Angeles Clippers.

In other words, Connecting… does a pretty good job of reflecting how conversations really go when friends get together. Hint: not always linear. We watch how these folks adapt to Zoom meetings while acknowledging the ways in which a Zoom meeting isn't the same as lunch at a restaurant.

For TV purposes, Connecting… obviously enhances and telescopes the drama of daily life. That said, a whole lot of viewers will find themselves not infrequently nodding their heads.

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