Community is a fragile thing, often built on fantasy, or a promise of a different reality. A community is a collection of people, some good and some bad, who share the goal of doing what’s best for their small locality. Yet, NBC has crafted “The Village”: a show based not on the give-and-take of living and finding commonality with those who are vastly different from you, but on the premise of interlocking stories as the sole basis of a familial relationship.
“The Village” is an almost fairytale-like apartment building in Brooklyn, where the colorful residents find not just a community, but a family. The premiere follows a few intertwined threads. First, disabled veteran Nick (Warren Christie, “The Resident”) returns home from Iraq, finding companionship with some old retired soldiers. One of these is Enzo (Dominic Chianese, “The Sopranos”), who’s escaped from his nursing home with his son’s credit card. Meanwhile, one of Enzo’s nurses — and Nick’s old girlfriend — Sarah (Michaela McManus, “Aquarius”) struggles to relate to her teenage daughter, Katie (Grace Van Dien, “Charlie Says”), who finds out she’s pregnant. Meanwhile, when Ava (Moran Atias, “The Resident”), an Iranian refugee, is apprehended by ICE, local police officer, Ben (Jerod Haynes, debut) takes her son in as she is being investigated further.
To clear the air, “The Village” has been compared to — and for good reason — NBC’s emotional tour de force, “This Is Us.” They share a lot in common: interconnected stories, tearjerker moments and a story built on the struggle of familial relationships. That being said, “The Village” is absolutely not “This Is Us.” It isn’t because the story is different, but because “The Village” has fundamental flaws that stop it from ever reaching the emotional gravity of “This Is Us.”
First and foremost is the very strange use of “Talk Dirty to Me” by Jason Derulo, featuring 2 Chainz. When might this song play during a show whose integral drive and fuel is its viewer’s tears? When three old guys are ogling a yoga instructor in the nursing home.
Additionally, rather than crafting a story that will organically offer emotional gravitas, “The Village” exploits elements that will guarantee cheap sympathy. Take Nick, who represents the show’s pinch of token patriotism. There’s no genuine discussion of the horrors of war or the hidden repercussions that haunt the minds of veterans — something that is very important thematically to “This Is Us.” Instead, we simply receive the hollow presence of a one-legged vet and his twin German Shepard.
While the show is on the verge of a diverse cast, the problems are very white, while the problems facing minorities go mostly overlooked. There’s yet to be a discussion of what inner conflict Ben must feel as a Black cop in gentrified Brooklyn. Likewise, the presence of undocumented immigrants are used as a self-explanatory critique on current politics, rather than a genuine exploration of what it means to be stateless in modern America, following a disturbing new trend in TV where all immigrant characters are undocumented and on the verge of deportation.
The emphasis on family in “The Village” is awkward and misplaced. Not because it doesn’t belong, but because it feels forced. The show’s generally talented cast cannot save the story’s inability to create genuine connections between the characters. It’s very mellow and seeks to score easy, passionate clout that it really doesn’t deserve. If there’s any take away from “The Village,” it’s that this is not what a community is like. It’s time to put an end to the “This Is Is” counterfeits.