- All American: Homecoming. The CW. Monday, July 5, 8 p.m.
- Cat People. Available Wednesday, July 5, on Netflix.
- Dogs. Available Wednesday, July 5, on Netflix.
Back in 2002, ABC had a sitcom called, believe it or not, Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central), set at a catastrophically failing network not unlike ABC itself at the time. After firing most its programmers, the network finally started letting a chimpanzee assemble its fall schedule by drawing names out of a box. I should clarify—the fictional network did this. ABC itself hired a TV critic (yes, I, too, shook my head) as its programming boss, who wound up making the chimpanzee look pretty smart. Her career lasted about as long as the run of Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central), which was tossed overboard with half its episodes unaired.
Anyway, I thought of Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central) as I watched All American: Homecoming, The CW's new teen soap. Homecoming, a spinoff of another teen soap called All American, won't actually join The CW schedule until 2022. Airing the first episode six months before you can watch the second one seems like the sort of programming move that a chimpanzee might make—if he'd had a couple of martinis for lunch and was also blindfolded.
Another possibility is that all the episodes will be scheduled six months apart, in hopes that viewers will forget how mind-numbingly, ossifyingly dull they are. The original show, All American, was a mediocre descendant of millennial teen melodramas like The O.C. and Gossip Girl. Homecoming is sort of a third-generation photocopy, smudgy and worn.
All American, scheduled to start its fourth season this fall, used a boinking-as-class-struggle formula that goes back at least to 1959's A Summer Place—poor pretty kids mixing it up with rich pretty kids, with a dash of sleazy parental flirtation to make the kids look less trashy—but was really perfected in The O.C. and its turn-of-the-last-century classmates. When it debuted in 2019, All American tossed race into the mix—its lead character is a superstar football player who transfers to a mostly white high school—but downplayed the class elements. The result was pretty draggy.
Homecoming further fades the formula, focusing on two attractive high-school athletes visiting predominantly black (and wholly fictional) Bringston University in Atlanta. Simone (Geffri Maya, playing her same character from All American), a former tennis whiz from Beverly Hills who hopes to climb back to the top after some time away, and Damon (Peyton Alex Smith, Legacies), a baseball star from Chicago whose domineering single mom want him to turn pro.
The kids are pleasant enough, but the scripts they've been handed are a pointless mess. With neither rich-man-poor-man conflict or racial tension to provoke tension, Homecoming pits its characters against senselessly mean college kids while spouting platitudes ("I'm helping the sport I love!"), acronyms (did everybody but me know that GAF signifies "grown-ass fun"?) and a lot of identity-politics sloganeering. If you're the sort of person who thinks it's a racist outrage that Simone's Beverly Hills history books didn't mention that Marion Wright Edelman was the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi bar, go ahead breathlessly await the full-time return of Homecoming next year. If not, just wander outside without a mask—you've got six months to catch Covid-19 before the show gets back.
Or you could sample a couple of amusing Netflix documentaries on house pets and their slaves—that is, us. I felt a horrifying moment of self-recognition while screening Cat People—geez, is that what I look like to other people? My cat buddy, Mr. Jay, cackled in affirmation, though in fairness I can't possibly be half as crazy as MoShow, the cat rapper who gave up a tech career to write heroic hip-hop odes ("Uh Ravioli chilling, yeah/Yeah we got it for thrill, yeah/Ravioli on chill, yeah/Ravioli got a thrill") about his five felines, one of whom is named, yes, Ravioli. "When I first started this," says MoShow wanly, "I didn't really have any support. People would say, 'Cat rapping, that's not a thing!'" The hell, you say…
MoShow, however, is convinced even if nobody else gets it, the cats do. "Am I the cat god?" he asks one of his kitties, getting a meow in return. MoShow clearly took it as a "hell yes." To me and Mr. Jay, it sounded more like a death threat.
Dogs, which is just kicking off its second season, is somewhat less weird, "somewhat" being the operative word. The first episode concerns the Butler University sports mascot Butler Blue III, an English bulldog who is about to finish his eighth and final season on the job before passing the bone to Butler Blue IV in a ceremony reverently referred to as "the changing of the collar." From what I could see on Dogs, Butler sports fans may be in for some lean years. BB IV's main talents seem to be getting his head stuck in a carton of Chinese takeout, and falling asleep, not always in that order. Mr. Jay was not amused.