NBC’s pleasant surprise

For fans of NBC sitcoms, the return of Community is surely the week’s big news — but thanks to a packed DVR and a baby pushing the boundaries of his bedtime following a daylight-savings shakeup, I haven’t yet watched it. Instead, another and somewhat lesser show caught me by happy surprise. Whitney, still in its first season, featured an episode in which one of the side characters comes out of the closet. Neal — played by Jack’s former assistant on the increasingly moribund 30 Rock — finds himself confusedly but unerringly attracted to another man, and as the news travels around his circle of friends, I braced for stupidity, or worse, a conservative return to the status quo by story’s end. But none of this happened; Neal was allowed his realization, and his pals, usually a reliable generator of quippy sarcasm, took the announcement in stride. Not the most earth-shaking development, perhaps, but a victory nonetheless: a small bit of sanity and compassion amid an overheated political season and a television programming block otherwise prone to doofusy dismissals of difference and a disdain for the messiness of actual life. Bravo, Whitney, for doing something right.

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