The Village is an unashamedly sincere tear-jerker about good people who need each other and is content to be just that. A welcome change.
This recap of The Village Episode 1 contains spoilers.
The titular village in NBC’s new tear-jerking ensemble drama is a New York City apartment building, one filled with charismatic actors playing likable characters with the utmost sincerity. There is no bad guy; no twists and turns, no looming doomsday, no mystery. Here, says The Village, are people, most with problems, who just happen to have found each other. The show’s identity is wrapped up entirely in its laidback, low-key warmth. It isn’t believable, but you might wish it was.
The obvious point of comparison is New Amsterdam, NBC’s consistently emotional and effortlessly uplifting medical drama. That show has more specificity, feels a bit tighter and more focused, while The Village has a broader, arguably more contrived appeal. It’s unlikely that these people would all be friends, and some of the cliches it leans against are a bit much. I’m not sure the one-legged veteran needed a three-legged dog for company, for instance. But the underlying message is the same, and still welcome: Let’s all be friends.
My heart is a dried-up little grape of cynicism, so I wouldn’t want all my TV shows to have such a happy-clappy approach. But since most fiction is built on conflict, it’s sometimes a pleasure not to find any. The Village is about unity, not division, and in our most divided times, that’s the kind of thing that helps you forget, for a little while at least, quite how fractured contemporary society is. And perhaps how much better it might be if our walls were a little thinner, and we cared a little more.
Maybe that’s ridiculous, but it’s nice to think about. Other characters and plots in The Village include a single mother, Sarah (Michaela McManus), discovering her tearaway teenage daughter Katie (Grace Van Dien) is pregnant; a refugee dealing with an unforeseen immigration issue; and a proud, sprightly old man, Enzo (Dominic Chianese), who rebels against his life in a retirement home by tormenting his well-meaning but fed-up grandson. There are quaint little bars where apparently civil rights leaders once took stools, and where now three escaped retirees (all ex-servicemen) salute their new compatriot and thank him for his service. He’s the one-legged guy, Nick (Warren Christie), and everyone he meets thanks him for his service; it’d be tedious and silly if it wasn’t so earnest. By the end of the premiere episode, it’s revealed that he’s also the father to Katie, and even that doesn’t ring with any kind of impending dread. It’s just another thing for everyone to bond over.
The cast is, arguably, a bit too big. Nick and Sarah feel like a focal point, but attention is spread out and thus spread thin, and that can make it difficult to see these people as people and not bundles of quirks hanging from a tragic backstory. But there’s so much about The Village to like that more of it, even too much of it, hardly seems like a problem. And there’s every chance that the show could hone in on these people more as it progresses. Mike Daniels’ new show is a charmer, no doubt, and while it’s nakedly intended to make grown adults bawl their eyes out like children, that isn’t such a bad thing.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.