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'The Village' review: A predictable tear-jerker, as familiar as an old shoe

Grace Van Dien as Katie Campbell in NBC's

Grace Van Dien as Katie Campbell in NBC's "The Village."  Photo Credit: NBC/Peter Kramer

SERIES "The Village"

WHEN|WHERE Premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. on NBC/4

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The Village is a quaint old apartment building in Brooklyn filled with tenants who care about each other and have each other's backs. There's Sarah (Michaela McManus), a VA nurse and single mom to rebellious high schooler Katie (Grace Van Dien). There's Gabe (Daren Kagasoff), a law student who now has to worry about his strong-willed granddad, Enzo (Dominic Chianese). There's Ava (Moran Atias), an immigrant and mom. There are Ron (Frankie Faison) and Patricia (Lorraine Toussaint), good-hearted proprietors and landlords of The Village. Next door is Ben (Jerod Haynes), a New York City cop who watches over his neighbors.

One day, Nick (Warren Christie) arrives. He's ex-Army and wounded — missing a leg below the knee that he lost in Iraq. Besides the war, he has a particularly complicated back story.

MY SAY The first bare-naked pitch to patriotism and the heartland arrives at the 18-minute mark. The first Funny Old Guy scene at the three-minute one. The first Heartfelt Sad Moment follows that. The Good-Hearted Cop arrives 10 minutes in. The first indie pop song (meant to elicit tears) tracks about 25 minutes in. The Cute Dog arrives right on schedule at the 34-minute mark, and six minutes after that, The Unexpected Twist None of Us Saw Coming.

Simply put, "The Village" pilot is perfect: A flawless configuration of "beats" and "moments" and "grace notes" that are neatly stacked into a prime-time artifice as familiar as an old shoe.

 Of course, to some hamburger connoisseurs, the Big Mac is perfect too: A flawless configuration of buns and burger and onion and ketchup and mayo and relish and secret sauce that are neatly stacked into an epicurean artifice as familiar as an old shoe.   

This is not to say "The Village," Big Macs or old shoes are terrible, but — lordy, oh, lordy — they're familiar. Disposable, too. We know them well, and in a TV network ecosystem as fractured as this current one, familiarity may be considered a plus. That doesn't necessarily make it great or even worthy — and "The Village" most emphatically is neither. It's a distillate of "This Is Us" and every other prime-time serial that dials in Snow Patrol or Tegan and Sara soundalikes the minute it wants to soften up viewers. It's also another show that exploits New York City without seeming to understand New York City at all — one big prop with nice buildings, pretty people and photogenic skylines. Disney World or Paducah would've done just as well.

Viewers, meanwhile, have clearly established that they couldn't care less. They'll take the syrup without the pancakes, gladly. Give them the Britpop-light soundtrack! Give them the faux tears! Give them downbeats followed by the upbeats followed by the let's-all-hug-it-out ones. Especially give them the phony invocations to patriotism — and be sure to throw in at least one or more references to 9/11!

"The Village" does all that and more, and so — ipso facto — "The Village" is perfect. The Big Mac is too. Bon appétit.

BOTTOM LINE Treacly, by-the-numbers prime-time tear-jerker that even Brooklyn and a good cast can't elevate. And viewers won't mind in the least.

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