For Better or Worse, Television Schedules Are Recovering from COVID

  • The cleaning lady. Fox. Monday, January 3, 2009 at 9:59 p.m.
  • It’s a great thing to be a good friend. CBS. Tuesday, January 5th at 10:05 p.m.

In an arithmetical sense of television, it may have finally found its way back from the pre-plague. The broadcast networks premiered two new series in December, and five more are scheduled for January, none of them reality shows or cheapie remake piffle, which may not sound too impressive until you remember that there were only a dozen new ones during the ballyhooed 2021 fall season.

Be aware that TV’s normal includes some mediocrity. The January TV programs will not make you forget. Seinfeld or even This is the Ugliest Girl In Town. (Which, I swear it, was an actual ABC sitcom in 1968.) Only thing that is really remarkable about the premieres this week is their existence after 2 years of COVID related havoc on production scheduling.

Fox’s new show is moderately more interesting this week. The cleaning ladyBased on an Argentine narconovela, La Chica Que Limpia. Elodie Yung (Daredevil, The DefendersThony de La Rosa (played by ) is an immigrant who works as a janitor while she waits for specialist medical care for her son. One night she was cleaning out a warehouse and accidentally witnesses the murder of a Mexican cartel member.

Thony is assigned to clean up all blood, brain, and other bodily fluids. The good news? Adan Canto is a trafficker. Here are some other optionsShe is a woman of high class consciousness, who views narcoassassins as well as undocumented cleaners ladies as victims in the massive American conspiracy against immigrants. When the work is done, Thony isn’t bumped off but put in charge of tidying up the cartel’s mutilated corpses, of which—it soon becomes apparent—there are many.

However, there is a diverse and fulfilling group of people in the office. These include Armenian gun runners, trophy wives with hot tempers, money launderers, and other individuals who have at most a passing interest to kill her. Thony discovers quickly that the HR section of the cartel is harsh when Thony criticizes her coworkers for their dedication to the job.

Most of the time, The cleaning lady follows the broad and predictable contours of other Hollywood tales of comely young women caught up in and corrupted by the drug trade, including The Queen of South and Maria Full of Grace. But the show has a few interesting tics, including the cartel’s lethal chess match with FBI moles. And The Cleaning Lady has a genuine note of diversity—Thony is not Hispanic but Cambodian, as is Yung, the actress who plays her. Perhaps a Killing Fields flashback would correct Hollywood’s certainty that narcotraffickers are the only merchants of death.

CBS’ Good Sam, on the other hand, is an over-emotive hospital soap opera that’s even more slavishly bound by the conventions of its genre. Cue crusty old heart surgeon browbeating the members of his young medical team. (“Pathlogically arrogant, profoundly insecure, emotionally unpredictable,And excessively vain!”) Cue loathsome disease you never heard of but will suffer nightmares about for the next six months. (An infection triggered by a Latin American insect that bites hard, then defecates inside the wound.) Cue turgid dialogue about wild sexual promiscuity. (“We have always been straight with each other!” “That was before you slept with my father!”) Repeat for 42 minutes.

When it drifts away from gerontological sex and insect defecation, Good Sam concerns a couple of arrogant heart surgeons, Robert Griffith (Jason Isaacs, Star Trek: Discovery) and his daughter Sam (Sophia Bush, the various Chicago shows). He’s her nasty boss and she’s his bitchy underling. Griffith falls into a coma for six months, and when he emerges, the poles have been reversed: She’s his bitchy boss and he’s her nasty underling. The insects and promiscuity are largely unaffected. It also includes  Dr. Kildare  Ben Casey are still spinning in their graves.