It's becoming more and more difficult to keep up with all the television shows that interest me. The TV landscape has become so fractured that I'm in danger of missing out on something that might be tailor-made to my tastes. That's the grim reality, so it's nice to have an oasis of quality that I know won't let me down.

The oasis I'm talking about is the dependable trio of B-shows that I adore. By "B-show", I don't mean that they're second-rate. By happenstance, they all start with the letter B. All three of the B-shows just wrapped up their seasons, which were excellent as always. But how did they stack up, overall?

Let's start with Black-ish, which took the concept of a sophomore slump and kicked it into the sun. There were some seismic shifts in both the cast and the tone of the writing, but happily, both were for the better. Deon Cole got a gig on another show, so we were sadly bereft of Charlie for most of the season, but Wanda Sykes was a welcome addition to Dre's office as his new, brutally-direct boss. On the home front, Regina Hall plays the new nanny with the perfect blend of competence and judgmental condescension. Laurence Fishburne is a busy fellow, so Jenifer Lewis has reigned supreme as the cantankerous elder stateswoman of the family.

But even taking the talented new cast members into consideration, it's the writing that makes this season really soar. Season 1 took on aspects of racial disparity, of course, but always had a tongue firmly planted in cheek. Season 2 digs a lot deeper. There are funny jabs at the usual black and/or sitcom tropes, such as an inability to swim or how to reign in the family's spending. But then there are those episodes that really grab society by the shoulders and give it a good shake. There was an episode about gun control, which aired right before another one of America's increasingly routine mass shootings. There was an episode about the N word and its shifting significance to all races. And in the biggest punch, there was an incredible episode about police brutality that should be required viewing. Even as Black-ish tackled these topics, it never lost its sense of humor, and this season will almost definitely be showing up on my Top 5 of the year.

Favorite Episode: "Hope" (Episode 16)

Meanwhile, over at Brooklyn Nine-Nine, things have settled. Once the audience gets used to a sitcom, the best we can ask for is that it establishes a comfortable routine. Maybe it won't wow us anymore, but it's still a reliable source of belly laughs and good characterization. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has found that rhythm, and while it's not the freshest material on the block, it's still incredibly funny. In Season 3, we get all sorts of zany shenanigans (not least of which, the show's amusing methods of hiding Melissa Fumero's real-life pregnancy). A cop who has been undercover for so long he's been driven partially insane (Jason Mantzoukas) drops by long enough to woo Rosa. Amy goes undercover in prison to get information out of a mob boss' sister (a nice turn by Aida Turturro). Charles' sperm is held hostage by his ex-wife. You know, boring stuff like that!

The show is bravely trying to extend the Jake/Amy romance, but is smart enough not to refer to it too often, since it doesn't seem to be a particularly natural match. That little glitch aside, the comedy is as strong as ever, and the ensemble meshes together seamlessly.

Favorite Episode: "Paranoia" (Episode 20)

Finally, there's Bob's Burgers, which has now wrapped up Season 6. Like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, this is a show that has settled into a nice routine, and like The Simpsons, once it was established, it can now spend its time developing the universe's secondary and tertiary characters. It's also given the kids a chance to mature a bit. Tina was once a nervous, horny, maladapted mess, but is beginning to display some confidence, so she can just be nervous and horny. Louise is beginning to realize that she can be held responsible for her actions. Gene... Well, he's still Gene, thank goodness.

There weren't as many home runs this season as there have been in seasons past, but there are definitely standouts. The Halloween episode is always a treat, and this season's is no exception, as the rest of the Belchers attempt to scare the unflappable Louise. Tina must weigh social status against stardom in a school play about the evils of kissing. Gene leads a group of naysayers on a quest to find a goat with two buttholes. If I have one big complaint, it's that Linda was mostly sidelined this season, and I found myself missing her presence. The kids at school have taken a nice step up, though, especially with the development of the air-headed Jocelyn, who's a delight.

The final episode of the season could almost function as a series finale, with the entire town stepping up to help Bob in his hour of need. Thankfully, that won't be the end, though, and Bob's Burgers, along with the rest of these wonderful B-shows, will be back next season.

Favorite Episode: "Stand By Gene" (Episode 12)

Black-ish - Season 2: A-
Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Season 3: B+
Bob's Burgers - Season 6: B+


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