‘The Good Place,’ ‘Designated Survivor,’ ‘Pitch,’ ‘Speechless’ reviewed

Network television refuses to be left behind in the Peak TV world. These shows might not be complete Emmy bait, but they are four solid options to watch week after week with your loved ones. I’m glad we live in a world where we can choose between an absurd afterlife comedy or a Jack Ryan-worthy thriller plus we can watch a female play against the big boys of baseball and celebrate children with cerebral palsy. Check out my thoughts below. 


The Good Place (NBC)

This utopian afterlife is perhaps one of the most peculiar premises to be on television in recent memory. Michael Schur (co-creator of Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine) knows how to make goofy work and this is his most ambitious effort to date. Kristen Bell stars as Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman who wakes up in The Good Place after dying. Only, she’s not a good person. She’s a terrible person from Phoenix who deserves to be in The Bad Place.

The first two episodes, which aired back to back, do a lot of world building. Everything is perfect in Eleanor’s neighborhood. It is her slice of Heaven run by Michael (Ted Danson). Think of him as the town mayor. She meets her soulmate Chidi (William Jackson Harper). Everyone in The Good Place gets one, but Chidi is actually the other Eleanor’s – the one who deserves to be in The Good Place – soulmate.

The third episode actually aired already as well in its normal time slot. That fleshed out what the series is actually going to be about. Eleanor’s presence in The Good Place is causing the neighborhood to go out of whack, causing mayhem in the utopian afterlife. It causes some truly comedic moments that make the show hilariously worth watching.

It is the type of show that a lot of people won’t like. They type of people who only like peak, realistic dramas or perhaps even like the baddie of the week criminal procedures. However, people need to give this one a chance because it follows in the absurdist comedy footsteps of shows like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, but takes it a step further.


Designated Survivor (ABC)

Keifer Sutherland’s new action-packed drama sounds like another cliched political affair. Tom Kirkman (Sutherland) is a low-ranking cabinet member who never was elected to any political office. After an attack on the State of the Union address where all of the higher cabinet members are killed, Kirkman is named President of the United States of America.

Of course, this is just the beginning of what is about to come. Dun dun.

I always pick a show like this to give a solid try to watch. Most recently, it was Quantico, before that How to Get Away with Murder. Both solid choices and it looks like this show will follow suit. The pilot is truly captivating and it does set up an interesting premise. Unlike The Good Place, though, this show only has aired its first episode so we can’t really see how good the execution is on the initial idea.

In addition to Sutherland’s solid performance, there are a slew of other actors who flesh out this cast. Most notably Kal Penn as Seth Wright, a speechwriter who doesn’t think Kirkman should dreaming president, but becomes a confidant of the newly appointed POTUS. The actor’s time spent in the White House gives him a grounded performance that will shine in weeks to come. Similarly, Maggie Q comes in as an FBI agent that will clearly provide the lead for some serious subplots that will help balance the show.


Pitch (Fox)

Baseball! Feminism! Drama! This is another mid-level concept series that has an interesting hook, but it’s not quite clear how the show will continue to deliver. Kylie Bunbury stars as Ginny Baker, the first woman to play in Major League Baseball. Sure, it’s for the San Diego Padres, but I guess that counts?

Watching sports on television or in the movies is hard. A lot of the time the directors do not take enough time to realistically portray someone shooting a basketball or hitting a hockey pick. But Pitch, with the help of MLB cooperating on the production, has taken a lot of care and effort into filming baseball with a lot of precision.

Bunbury leads a lot of great performances, including Mark-Paul Gosselaar as a veteran All-Star catcher and Dan Lauria as a gruff seasoned manager. It’s not all peachy, though. The worst role, unfortulately, is Ali Larter’s role as Baker’s manager. She claimed the pitcher was “Hillary Clinton with sex appeal and a Kardashian with a skill set.” As much as Pitch has done for female rights, that line seemed completely out of it.


Speechless (ABC)

ABC is good at family network comedies. Minnie Driver leads yet another one. Everything about the show follows the tried and true family sitcom blueprint. One tightly wound parent married to a hip one. Three children who represent different high school tropes. The wrinkle here is that one of the children has cerebral palsy.

Maya DiMeo (Driver) is the matriarch of the family who wants her son JJ (Micah Fowler) to fit in regardless of his medical condition. She uproots her family whenever a school fails to meet her high standards, which is where we find the family in the pilot. The dynamic of the family is already top notch. The actors are all meshing well and this will fall into place right alongside Fresh Off the Boat, The Middle, and maybe even Black-ish.

Family comedies have been bad pretty recently, but there have been standouts. And while they aren’t normally my cup of tea, the idea of a child with CP as a central character is refreshing. Highlighting diversity has become a welcome trend recently and Speechless has proven it’s more than a trend in the pilot.

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