Wishes for the New Year—comedies to make us laugh, dramas to affirm the good in people and competitions to make us proud

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We don’t need any more shows making fun of our political maelstrom. They contribute to anxiety not laughter. We don’t need scary TV dramas that show the world as a powder keg. We want to see everyday heroes who make a difference and bring out the best in us. And, athletic competitions are supposed to thrill us not divide us.

On Friday, February 9 NBC will launch the XXIII Olympic Winter Games Opening Ceremony. All eyes will be on Pyeongchang, South Korea, and maybe a little further north when the winter games begin. Let’s hope the games are dominated by athletics and not political posturing. Remember the Olympic creed: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle.” I’ll still be rooting for Team USA.

But before the Olympic torch is lit, NBC is offering a diverse slate of programming that has already hit the airwaves.

Speaking of competition, there’s Ellen’s Game of Games with the wacky Ellen DeGeneres getting crazy with folks playing for big prizes. It’s pure OMG escapism.

This reporter’s favorite new rib-tickling guilty pleasure is Better Late Than Never, airing Monday nights on NBC. It’s sort of an Amazing Race with just one team of grumpy old celebrities— William Shatner, Henry Winkler, George Foreman, Terry Bradshaw, and their guide Jeff Dye, traveling the globe enjoying their bucket-list adventures.

On one show Bradshaw goes in search of his Viking roots which leads to a series of challenges that aren’t for the faint of heart. But it’s not all fun and games when the friends are confronted with the world’s smelliest dish and a strict etiquette class that turns into a complete disaster. And we’ll discover that Foreman is the world’s biggest ABBA fan, and he gets the surprise of a lifetime by meeting founding member Bjorn.

Another episode has Shatner taking the guys to Lithuania, a place where his parents grew up and he sets out to find his family connection. Bill’s big plans lead the guys to stay in an uncomfortable haunted castle and an unpleasant visit to Russia.

On January 9 the acclaimed family drama This Is Us returns to the Tuesday night schedule on NBC. It starts off with “The Fifth Wheel” episode with the Pearsons coming together under unexpected circumstances. Meanwhile, Jack surprises the family with a summer vacation.

Chicago Fire is another great drama about a family of firefighters at a Chicago firehouse, airing Thursday nights. The winter season kicks off with “A Man’s Legacy,” that has Otis (Yuri Sardarov) scrambling to get everything together for the grand opening of his bar, Molly’s North. Meanwhile, Boden (Eamonn Walker) becomes emotional following the rescue of a famous blues player from a burning apartment building, and Dawson (Monica Raymund) struggles to come to terms with how she has been dealing with her father. Brett (Kara Killmer) attempts to make a lifesaving decision in the field to someone near and dear to the firehouse family. Easily the best looking cast on TV, Chicago Fire also stars Jesse Spencer, Taylor Kinney, David Eigenberg, Miranda Rae Mayo, Joe Minoso and Christian Stolte, for those who want some eye candy with their drama.

The Voice Spring Cycle premiere is set for debut Monday, February 26 featuring new coach Kelly Clarkson alongside Alicia Keys, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton. It will be followed by the debut of Good Girls starring Christina Hendricks (Mad Men), Mae Whitman (Parenthood) and Retta (Parks and Recreation) as three suburban moms get tired of trying to make ends meet and do something crazy that puts them in way over their heads. From executive producer Jenna Bans (Grey’s Anatomy), the series from Universal Television is described as a comedy-infused drama that mixes a little Thelma & Louise with a bit of Breaking Bad. Sounds interesting.

Tune in.

Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years, and was proud to be half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.

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