NBC’s ‘Connecting … ’ provides comfort in a time of extreme uncertainty

Sunday, October 11, 2020 - 6:17pm

NOSELL

NBC

After months of themed dinners, Zoom family reunions and newfound quarantine hobbies, the coronavirus pandemic has provided us with a new shared subculture. In spite of the hardships Americans faced throughout all stages of this ongoing quarantine, we have found ways to remain connected with the people we love most. 

NBC’s “Connecting … ” captures the stress and weight of quarantine while appreciating the unshakeable human connection. Featuring real clips of government officials and healthcare workers, this show feels as much like a pseudo-documentary as like a fictional story. By using each episode to focus on specific days and moments of the pandemic, the sitcom is able to provide commentary on the emotions and expectations we can all remember so clearly. The pilot episode is meant to depict the mindset of Mar. 29 (early quarantine when nobody understood the implications of the pandemic yet), so the characters frustratingly hope that “This’ll be over in a month, right?” 

Each character has a unique yet familiar quarantine situation: a healthcare worker working in overdrive, a dad in need of a break from his kids, a man so scared of the virus he wears a mask at all times and lonely twenty-somethings missing the social world. However, as new and fascinating as the premise of the show is, the actual plot is pretty formulaic and dry. One friend is in love with the other, someone accidentally tells him how his friend feels, you get the idea. Innovation is not where the appeal of “Connecting …” lies. Instead, its strength is its storytelling. Telling a 30-minute story about a group of friends who never physically interact is quite the task to take on, but the episode finds innovative ways to exclude characters from scenes and provoke the minor drama typical of a sitcom. Connectivity issues and confusion about functions of video chat provide simple yet relatable plot points.

The show isn’t high-quality enough to gain a strong fanbase, but it’s an entertaining way to shine a light on the subculture developed over the course of the pandemic. Its best quality is its ability to tap into the collective feelings experienced during quarantine. Its humor feels aggressively directed towards millennials, making cultural references most teenagers and adults wouldn’t understand. It’s borderline cringey at times, such as when feeling sad is compared to feeling like “pre-Lemonade Beyonce.” But the episode’s emotional moments also feel somewhat forced and jarring. One moment they are laughing about the group dinners they once had and then seconds later, Jasmine (Cassie Beck, “High Maintenance”), a frontline health care worker, is bursting into tears about the lack of ventilators at her hospital. The story felt almost overcrowded, as they tried to go into depth about so many issues and perspectives that most of them felt underdeveloped. 

Though “Connecting. …” is far from perfect, its intentions are clear and heartwarming. It reminds viewers that even though the pandemic has caused extreme loneliness, everyone is going through the same heartache and frustration. Its lighthearted conversations about friendship without in-person interaction encourages its audience to attempt to be appreciative of the resources they do have rather than on what they’ve lost. A solid depiction of the cultural and social phenomena that arose from the pandemic, “Connecting …” feels like a show that could one day be viewed in history classes in order to display the emotions of the quarantine experience.

Contributor Emily Blumberg can be reached at emilybl@umich.edu.

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