Station Control

Family dysfunction on Display

by Benjamin Carr

Every happy family is alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in their own way. And TV families, as Tolstoy would've suggested, are rather unhappy these days. But they remain compelling.

ROSEANNE (ABC)

The return of the Conners in this reboot of Roseanne Barr's classic sitcom opened up to huge ratings and an immediate renewal when it premiered. It also led President Trump to call Barr, a supporter of his, to suggest it was a victory for his agenda.

What the new Roseanne is, more than anything, is relatable, well-written and consistently funny. The family at its center is still loving, and its matriarch is still a force of nature. But the new show also presents the Conners as a family divided about politics, much like many of its viewers.

The entire original cast, including John Goodman as Dan, has returned. Within the show, Darlene (Sara Gilbert) has returned with her two kids to live with her parents after a layoff and a failed marriage. Becky (Lecy Goranson) is a widowed waitress looking to raise money by becoming a surrogate. DJ (Michael Fishman) has recently returned from war overseas. And Aunt Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) is still nutty and constantly arguing with her sister.

Separating the show from the politics of its star is proving difficult for many critics and viewers, but Roseanne is both daring, nostalgic and familiar on its own.

LOST IN SPACE (Netflix)

In this remake of the 1960s adventure show, the Robinson family - led by parents John and Maureen (Toby Stephens and Molly Parker) - has once again left Earth on route to a new colony on Alpha Centauri, only to find their trip aboard the Jupiter thrown wildly off course with little hope for survival.

As his family faces one life-threatening space disaster after another, young genius Will (Maxwell Jenkins) discovers an alien robot who becomes his best friend and protector from danger. And the biggest danger the family faces may come from the stowaway passenger Dr. Smith (Parker Posey).

The Netflix series' major difference from the original, whimsical show is a darker, serialized story - filled with cliffhangers and actual danger. This thing is bleak. The Robinsons and Smith are filled with secrets, revealed in flashbacks similar to another Lost show.

One of the most daring actresses of her generation, Posey runs away with the new series, though the cast is strong. Her variation on Smith is lunatic and evil, a survivor with endless secrets willing to kill or sacrifice anyone to ensure her own safety. Posey is a total blast.

A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS (Netflix)

Season two of the Baudelaire orphans' saga continues its mostly faithful adaptation of the Lemony Snicket children's book series. Violet, Klaus and toddler Sunny remain three resourceful, intelligent children shipped from one troubled guardian to the next after their parents were killed in a fire by the villainous Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris).

This year, the kids deal with a problematic private school, a horrible high-rise and a grotesque hospital, where they uncover more mysteries about their parents. Guest stars include Nathan Fillon, Sara Rue, Lucy Punch and Roger Bart.

The show is still wry, stylish and wacky. And its family finds resources, comfort and love in spite of the perpetual chaos they face.

There's a twisted sort of hope in its stories.

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