“Television: Teacher. Mother. Secret lover.” ~ Homer Simpson
The Emmys were on last night and, if you’re like me, you made your family shut up and leave the room while they were on. Not really, but I have a very serious relationship with award shows. It combines my love of entertainment with my pathological need to know who wins things.
A lot of good things happened last night. Anytime Tatiana Maslany, Aziz Ansari, and Key & Peele get up and accept an award, it’s a good night.
Although it wasn’t necessarily a good night for the four major broadcast networks. ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX have been putting a lot of lowbrow trash on the air for years now. Of the 27 awards handed out last night, only four went to a major network (and none went to CBS): one was a reality show, one was a live musical, one was a late night show, and one was a miniseries. The four major networks put out 147 scripted shows in 2015 and not a single damn show won an Emmy.
Nevertheless, they press on. They keep creating terrible shows because they know we’ll keep watching them. It’s premier week. All of your old favorite shows are back with new episodes, and the big four networks are debuting a dozen pilots this week.
And I’m gonna watch them all.
Well, not really. I have help. No one could be expected to tackle such a monumentally ludicrous challenge single-handedly. So I made my sister join me.
There are two new shows every night this week (except Wednesday, there’s three). I’ll be watching and reviewing one, Julie will be watching and reviewing the other one. Wednesday maybe we’ll have a guest reviewer. Our job will be to tell you whether or not these new network shows are worth watching. I mean, anything’s possible, right?
OK, here’s Julie with her review of Kevin Can Wait.
Kevin Can Wait – CBS
The Good Place – NBC
The Good Place immediately reminds me of Defending Your Life, the incredibly brilliant Albert Brooks movie about what happens when you die. It moves on from that premise eventually, but it’s clear that the movie was an inspiration.
Kristen Bell plays Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman who has just died. She wakes up in “The Good Place” a construct that closely resembles the world she left, and is intricately designed to suit her life to a tee. Eleanor was a good person, a lawyer who got people off of death row and saved starving children somewhere.
Eleanor is introduced to The Good Place by the neighborhood’s creator and boss man, Michael, played by Ted Danson. Michael shows Eleanor her new house, her new life. He introduces her to her soulmate. Everyone in The Good Place is guaranteed to spend eternity with his or her soulmate. Eleanor gets her soulmate, Chidi, a Nigerian college professor, alone in a room, and proceeds to drop a bomb on him.
There’s been a mistake. This Eleanor wasn’t a good person. She was a terrible person who ripped off old people an generally led a deplorable, selfish life. There’s a glitch in the system.
Soon enough, terrible things start happening in The Good Place, all of which seem to tie back directly to Eleanor. It’s only a matter of time before the glitch is discovered and she is sent away to The Bad Place, which we only catch a brief audio snippet of. It’s not good.
So she enlists the help of Chidi. She thinks that if she can pull off attempting to be a good person, she’ll earn her stay and everything will be good. This is the general set up.
The Good Place is created by Michael Schur, who honed his TV chops on The Office, then went on to produce two of the most amazing, hilarious, heartfelt shows on network TV: Parks & Rec and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. And he’s not alone. He brought along Dan Goor, Alan Yang (who just won a co-writing Emmy with Aziz Ansari for the brilliant Master of None), Megan Anram, Joe Mande, and Jen Statsky, and probably a half-dozen other writers and producers from those shows.
This is an impeccable pedigree. I will give The Good Place the benefit of the doubt because 1) Michael Schur can do no wrong, and 2) as we shall see this week, TV shows should rarely be judged on their pilots. I know that’s technically what we’re doing here this week, but I’ll have patience with this show. The pilot for Parks & Rec is nothing like the warm, funny, smart show it turned out to be.
So yes, Eleanor is unredeemable, her supporting cast seems awfully one-note and uninteresting. But Kristen Bell makes it work and Ted Danson is sitcom gold. Also, he was amazing on season 2 of Fargo but that’s beside the point.
OK, that’s it! See you tomorrow. And yes, I think we all agree that Julie should have to watch Kevin Can Wait all season long. Right? Right.