Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

We’re definitely not in the Bad Place tonight

Manny Jacinto
Photo: Colleen Hayes (NBC)

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Thursday, September 26. All times are Eastern. 


Top pick

The Good Place (NBC, 9 p.m., fourth-season premiere): It’s the beginning of the end, and we are somehow both ready and not forking ready.

“I think a lot about the flashback where Eleanor’s going to a coffee shop where the owner is a horrible sex monster, and is treating employees terribly,” writer-producer Jen Statsky told Erik Adams during an interview Adams conducted with Statsky, creator Michael Schur, and fellow writer-producer Megan Amram. She went on:

She makes this very college freshman point of “Everything’s bad, why bother trying.” Especially in the time we’re living in, there’s a tendency to use that as a shield. You want to throw your hands up and say, “Fuck it, never mind.” And I think a lot about that point we made—which I think is central to the core philosophy of the show—which is “You’re here, you might as well try, rather than not.” So that is something that I have taken and think about, almost on a daily level, as I’m crying looking at Twitter.

Michael Schur: If you had to boil the show down to one thing, that’s the scene. “Just try where you can.” You might get it wrong, and you’re not going to be perfect—you’re going to make mistakes all the time. But if you just try, that’s 95 percent of the battle. And it continues to be the message, through the entire last season: trying where you can to make a slightly better decision than the one you made yesterday.

Megan Amram: To be deliberate and not to lose hope, not to go on autopilot. To take those moments when you can make a better choice.

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The choice we’re making tonight is to watch the show, read Dennis Perkins’ recap, and eagerly anticipate the annotated guide to the episode that Adams will publish following its premiere. You’ve got multiple choices, and one of them is whether or not to catch up on the Good Place webisode series The Selection, which chronicles the Bad Place’s efforts to select the lab rats for the great, can-people-get-better experiment in the sky. [Allison Shoemaker]

Also premiering today

Perfect Harmony (NBC, 8:30 p.m., series premiere): Look for Saloni Gajjar’s pre-air review of this Bradley Whitford-starring series about a former Princeton music professor who finds himself connected with a small-town church choir. [Allison Shoemaker]

The Unicorn (CBS, 8:31 p.m., series premiere): Danette Chavez will recap the efficient, promising premiere of this single-cam sitcom, which sees a widowed father (Walton Goggins) coaxed back into the world (and dating) by his well-intentioned friends. The terrific cast includes Michaela Watkins, Maya Lynne Robinson, Omar Benson Miller, and Rob Corddry. [Allison Shoemaker]

Carol’s Second Act (CBS, 9:30 p.m., series premiere): Those excited by the prospect of Booksmart writers Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins creating a new multi-cam sitcom are likely to be disappointed by Carol’s Second Act. The only laughs in the pilot of this by-the-numbers comedy come from the studio audience, as 50-year-old Carol (Patricia Heaton) joins a central casting group of interns, including the requisite conceited guy, the crunchy granola guy, and the stereotypically stern chief resident. There are fleeting moments of the writers’ wit (Carol: “I’m a regular Angela Lansbury.” Conceited guy: “Stop talking about your friends!”), but at least in the pilot, these moments are few and far between. And the title character’s near-constant pluckiness—she’s super chatty! She always has Kleenex!—is borderline grating. But Heaton’s Carol does get a nice monologue moment toward the end of the first episode, pointing out that her extra decades may make her a better doctor than her twentysomething counterparts because she has much more experience in actually dealing with people. That is a promising premise for the show—and having High School Musical’s Ashley Tisdale on board as Carol’s pharm girl daughter and Kyle MacLachlan as a dashing, daffy doctor on staff certainly doesn’t hurt. But it’s hard to get around the antiquated feel of the multi-camera/laffs format alongside tired, predictable wisecracks. Carol will have to reinvent herself in a variety of ways to stay relevant. [Gwen Ihnat]

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Sunnyside (NBC, 9:31 p.m., series premiere): “Despite [the show’s considerable] onscreen and offscreen talent, Sunnyside arrives undercooked. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t moments of charm and wit; one of the great things about an ensemble show, and the convoluted way they come together, is that there’s lots of room for surprise.” Read the rest of Sulagna Misra’s pre-air review. 

Grey’s Anatomy (ABC, 8 p.m., 16th season premiere): Gwen Ihnat will drop in on the 16th season premiere of what’s now the longest-running medical drama in TV history, but don’t expect to see the show start laying the groundwork for its exit. It was renewed for seasons 16 and 17 at the same time, and star Ellen Pompeo signed on for both. Point is, the fine people of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. [Allison Shoemaker]

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How To Get Away With Murder (ABC, 10 p.m., sixth-season premiere): On the other hand, Annalise Keating and company will stop getting away with murder after this season—or at least, we’ll stop watching them do so. Viola Davis, Aja Naomi King, Liza Weil, and the rest of the cast will surely pop up in other projects, but HTGAWM is coming to an end. Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya will return to recap the last season of this Shondaland staple. [Allison Shoemaker]

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (NBC, 10:01 p.m., 21st season premiere): We know that, technically speaking, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has already aired a Harvey Weinstein-inspired episode. But that episode, 2018’s “Flight Risk,” traded the movie industry for the airline industry, and although they’re both fields where women struggle to be heard, let alone advance, that change made the commentary feel less pointed. But 2017, when the episode was first announced, was a different time—Weinstein wasn’t the subject of nearly as many criminal investigations at that point. Which might be why SVU draws a much more direct parallel in its 21st season premiere, starting with the title: “I’m Going To Make You A Star.” Now that’s not an uncommon saying in Tinseltown, but taken as a part of the whole, it sure sounds like SVU is now much more willing to dramatize that series of headlines. The episode stars Ian McShane as a movie mogul accused of sexual assault, who naturally cries “#MeToo witch hunt” the moment he faces charges. SVU’s approach is heavy-handed at times; the premiere can’t resist throwing in some hashtag talk, including a reference to Brexit. But given how long it’s taken to get here (in proper form), “I’m Going To Make You A Star” is worth the watch. [Danette Chavez]

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Wild card

Evil (CBS, 9:30 p.m.): Mike “Luke Cage” Colter, Katja Herbers (Westworld), and Aasif Mandvi (The Daily Show) star in the latest from The Good Wife/The Good Fight creators Michelle and Robert King, a procedural with a demonic (and sometimes divine) bent. Herbers plays a practical, highly intelligent psychologist who works primarily as an expert witness for the criminal court. Colter plays a priest-in-training who looks into cases that the church thinks could potentially involve demonic possession or might be miracles. Mandvi is the skeptical tech guy, handy at everything from detecting deep fakes to fixing non-possessed appliances. All three are great.

Oh, and Michael Emerson is there, in rare form, doing his Michael Emerson thing where even the non-menacing stuff sounds menacing. [Allison Shoemaker]

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