October 22nd, 2016

Thumbs Up Spike

TV reviews: The Good Place/Timeless

My wife and I budget our television, since we have so many demands on our time such as writing, doctor appointments, playing with the dog and, oh yeah, working for a living.

As a result, we don’t take on too many new TV shows, even if they sound interesting, Generally we only start a new one if one we already watched gets canceled, as happens all too often. So far this year we’ve only checked out two new shows:

The Good Place. I will watch anything with Kristen Bell in it, even if she’s a singing cartoon character (which she was—wonderfully). I’m also a big fan of Ted Danson, so a show joining the two was worth checking out. Turns out it was worth checking out the worth checking out.

Bell is Eleanor, who finds herself in a—well, good place—after dying. The only problem is, something is horribly wrong—and it’s her. Eleanor is just a nasty person, who’s well aware she doesn’t deserve to be in paradise. She soon realizes that mistake is throwing her surroundings into chaos, so she sets out to improve herself, aided by her mistakenly assigned soul mate, Chidi (William Jackson Harper).

Danson plays Michael, who’s an angel, or something, assigned as architect of this little heaven of three hundred or so perfect people. It’s Michael’s first creation, and when things start going wrong he’s puzzled, then panicked. Turns out nobody can play panicked like Ted Danson, just as nobody can play nasty like Kirsten Bell.

I wasn’t sure how they’d manage to continue this concept, but after several episodes it’s getting better and better as we look into the past of all these perfect inhabitants, and realize none is so perfect, after all. In fact, I’m enjoying it so much I’m convinced it will soon be canceled. That’s been the fat of every star-centered show we’ve liked in recent years (for instance, Michael J. Fox and Robin Williams/Sarah Michelle Geller.)

Timeless. I’ve said before that I love a good time travel story. We’ve only seen a few episodes of this one, but they put a great twist in as the characters seek to prevent history from being irrevocably changed—and fail.

Temporarily, I assume. The story concerns a terrorist—or is he?—who steals a time machine and sets off to change the past. Naturally Homeland Security gets involved, assigning an historian, a soldier, and a scientist to go back and stop the bad guy. Abigail Spencer is great as the driven historian, who has exactly the same reaction I would to looking up and seeing the Hindenburg fly overhead.

The story’s fun, if heavy on the plot holes. I think when you’re talking time travel you have to dedicate yourself to the suspension of belief, or you’re stuck with the “why don’t they just send a different team back an hour earlier?” problem. It’s also just a bit too much on the serious side, but this show has Supernatural pedigree, so maybe that will change.

Overall I like the cast and setup, and the effects are good enough for a TV show, so we’ll see. After all, shows don’t get canceled before they have a chance to find their footing. Do they?