Send In The Chimps: TV's Fun Factor Is About Zero Right Now

Six months into 2024, and there have been no shows about cute chimps.

In fact, the hugely entertaining antics of chimpanzees both young and old have not enlivened the TV universe since the fourth quarter of 2020, when two chimp shows turned up in a matter of weeks -- “Meet the Chimps” on Disney+ and “Baby Chimp Rescue” on BBC America.

Chimps are not essential for having fun watching TV, but lately, my hope for what you might call “lite fare” on TV is going unfulfilled, chimps or no chimps.

Perhaps it is the time of year -- mid-June and the happy prospect of summer -- that has me longing for something to present itself that will be fun to view and review.

What makes for a “fun” show? It is a matter of opinion, but very generally speaking, for me, “fun” TV shows are shows that do not take themselves too seriously.



On the other hand, I have given rave reviews to plenty of “serious” shows. Just this year, I reacted positively to the Sofia Vergara crime drama “Griselda” (Netflix), the grim Jodie Foster drama “True Detective: Night Country” (HBO, Max), and even “Scrublands,” the Sundance Now-AMC+ drama from Australia about a priest who commits a mass shooting (no pun intended).

As much as I liked them, however, they were not exactly fun. I also liked “Fallout” on Amazon Prime, but that was about the struggles of people two centuries after an apocalypse.

“We Were the Lucky Ones” on Hulu was a very well-made show, but it was a drama about Jews being rounded up by the Nazis, and then sent to their deaths (except for the few “lucky ones” of the title).

I will acknowledge that TV’s better scripted drama shows in general are not exactly fun places to visit, despite their quality. 

There were some exceptions this year, however. CBS’s lighthearted “Elsbeth” comes to mind. And AMC’s “Monsieur Spade,” starring Clive Owen as a retired Sam Spade living in France, was going pretty well, right up until the moment six nuns were found brutally murdered.

By contrast, comedies can be fun, unless they too take themselves too seriously. It’s an odd position to take for a TV comedy series, but that is the case with some of our modern comedies lately.

In any case, looking back at this year’s reviews so far, I find very few comedies. In fact, there have been just two, and both were in January.

One was “Ted,” the Seth MacFarlane live-action prequel series to the “Ted” movie series. I gave it a thumbs-up.

The other was “In the Know,” an animated series from Mike Judge about a fictional NPR radio show. It also got a positive review. Both are from Peacock.

I also liked the third-season premiere of “Abbott Elementary” on ABC. Well, who doesn’t like that show? It is indeed one of TV’s few happy places. 

Two shows that came up for consideration in the TV Blog this year illustrate the wide gap between the fun and the grotesque in TV content.

The latter was “Take My Tumor” on TLC -- a show about unfortunate people coping with huge growths affixed to their outer skin, and seeking to have them removed surgically. Understatement alert: This was unpleasant to watch.

By contrast, I give you “Dolly Parton’s Pet Gala,” a CBS special seen last February. It was basically a dog fashion show lasting two hours.

In a thumbs-up review, I described it as “patently ridiculous,” which also happened to be its most endearing feature.

Not that the TV Blog needs dog fashion shows and baby chimps to stay interested in all manner of TV content, but every once in a while, it couldn’t hurt.

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