For the famous, retirement isn’t what it used to be.

Once upon a time — say, until 10 or 15 years ago — celebrities chased after a roving spotlight, their pursuit slowing as they aged or abandoned it altogether. But the fragmentation of media and entertainment has meant many more (if far dimmer) spotlights, while the rise of social media has allowed fame-seekers to stop running after capricious tastemakers and simply stand in front of a ring light. Factor in our culture’s apparently infinite appetite for nostalgia, and you never have to ask “where are they now?” again.

Today, past-their-prime stars are everywhere. The lucky few still work in film and television, but they are also authors, influencers, podcasters and keyboard warriors; impresarios of wellness and wine; the subjects of documentaries and drink-throwers on reality TV; and the most extroverted version of themselves on Cameo and at conventions.

In the same period, the nature of star power has changed. In the ’90s, A-listers like Tom Cruise and Julia Roberts exuded unknowability, unreachability. We became familiar with their megawatt smiles and a few details about their love lives, but probably not who they voted for or what their kitchen(s) looked like. These days, there doesn’t seem to be a single thing we don’t know about Kim Kardashian West, and even an octogenarian actress like Jane Fonda can go viral with a self-deprecating morning-after photo that illustrates the magic of makeup. Authenticity and relatability — or a convincing performance thereof — is what raises a celebrity’s Q score.

Perhaps no other kind of star is more sympathetic than an over-the-hill one, their faded beauty no longer so threatening, their status diminished and thus humanized, their once-tight lips often loosened by courage, maturity, bitterness or carelessness.

We’re certainly much kinder to them than we used to be. We eagerly anticipate docs about Val Kilmer and Selma Blair, make hit podcasts out of the ones hosted by former castmates of “The Sopranos” and “Beverly Hills, 90210” and generally display more decency than to muse aloud about when a young actor chewed up and spit out by the system might die. Even the decades-old stigma against convention appearances seems to have disappeared. Everyone understands needing to make a buck, and if it makes fans happy in the process, that’s a win-win.

Many a successful TV series has been built around empathy for characters we might have initially found utterly repellent: serial killers, Soviet spies hellbent on destroying America, techies. Fittingly, then, our newfound sympathy for aging celebs fuels some of the best and buzziest shows of the year, including a hidden gem currently on the air.

Earlier this year, “Hacks” and “Girls5eva” became word-of-mouth smashes by dangling the promise of a second or third act in front of its performer protagonists. With the HBO Max dramedy “Hacks,” we longed for Jean Smart’s Deborah Vance, a Vegas-based comedian modeled partly on Joan Rivers, to break out of her comfort zone and try out a more honest routine that might speak to the millions too young to have seen her on her ‘70s sitcom. Peacock’s “Girls5eva” — named after a one-hit-wonder girl group that fizzled at the turn of the millennium — channels this moment of endless celebrity comebacks even more directly, its 40-something quartet (played by Sara Bareilles, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Busy Philipps and Paula Pell) convinced that they still have something to offer the world, especially now that they’ve got more to say than “quit flying planes at my heart” on Sept. 10, 2001.

Thematic relevance is no guarantee of watchability; the ABC hip-hop drama “Queens,” premised almost identically to “Girls5eva,” is off to a clunky start despite better music and assured lead performances by Eve and Brandy. Its failure to launch makes Fox’s behind-the-scenes dramedy “The Big Leap” — one of fall TV’s strongest new offerings — soar even higher.

Everyone’s seeking a second chance in this Detroit-set scripted hybrid between “Unreal” and “So You Think You Can Dance”: Dancers from different backgrounds and of varying ability get cast on a reality show that’ll put on a production of “Swan Lake” by the end of the season. (“The Big Leap” is nominally based on a British docuseries called “Big Ballet,” which features heavier or “real”-sized women — and men — getting to realize their tutu dreams.)

It’s hard to imagine that an American broadcast network would go for the show-within-the-show — there’s no way the real Fox would air an amateur ballet showcase. But its strengths more than make up for its occasional credulity strains. “The Big Leap” retains some of the body positivity of its source material, and the making-of-reality-TV concept also gives way to some deliciously mean showbiz satire, as well as some compellingly bleak scenes of how the television sausage gets made.

The series initially focuses on the participants’ search for meaning through dance: Single mom Gabby (winsome newcomer Simone Recasner) wishes for a “creative rebirth” via ballet after giving up college to raise her son; laid-off factory worker Mike (Jon Rudnitsky) doesn’t realize he’s vibing with the cancer-survivor executive (Piper Perabo) who unwittingly targeted him for termination; middle-aged influencer Julia (Teri Polo) desperately tries to revive her dead marriage.

But the heavy setup in the first few episodes has yielded to more naturalistic character development, especially of the show-within-the-show’s coaches: former dancer Wayne (Kevin Daniels), whose wholesome exterior covers up struggles with sobriety, and ex-prima ballerina Monica (Mallory Jansen), who sneers that she’s signed herself up for a “career-ending diaper fire.” Scarily self-disciplined and very, very British, Monica lashes out at everyone, but she’s angriest at herself for not being invincible.

“The Big Leap” hits its stride as it delves into their backstories, as well as those of suspended football player Reggie (Ser’Darius Blain), who feels lost without the structure of the game, and even the show-within-the-show’s evil-genius producer, Nick (Scott Foley, relishing every Machiavellian turn), who’s hoping his last flirtation with professional disgrace will remain just that.

“The Big Leap” is clear-eyed but also kindhearted, a conduit of the greater grace we now extend to those fighting obsolescence, as well as, perhaps, a nation convinced of its decline, yet clinging to hope that better days are ahead.

The Big Leap airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on Fox. Queens airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

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