It’s appropriate that The Good Fight on CBS All Access has a slightly more jagged and splintered atmosphere than The Good Wife, the long-running CBS drama that starred Julianna Margulies. In the opening minutes of the first episode, Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), watches as Donald Trump is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president. Before the 50-minute pilot is over, the jarring changing of the guard in Washington is the least of her troubles. Baranski brings a heartbreaking rawness to her performance as Diane, who never got enough meaningful screen time on The Good Wife. Diane’s plight is thus personal but also metaphorical: She likens the collapse of every pillar of her supposedly solid and trustworthy world to a nightmare.
It’s hard to say which is more excessive in the new CBS crime thriller, Training Day: the action or the dialogue. But in either case, the series from Jerry Bruckheimer and Anthony Fuqua goes a long way toward waking up broadcast TV’s mid-season. There is plenty of action, enhanced by fast-paced editing, in the three episodes made available to critics. And there’s violence. But most of all, there is dialogue so rich and colorful, it almost evokes the stuff of guys like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, or at least Sgt. Joe Friday. Training Day just may get away with murder on Thursday nights when the numbers are counted.
Well, they only had to remake a jillion TV shows from yesteryear to finally get one exactly, perfectly right. Not only is Netflix’s reimagined One Day at a Time a joy to watch, it’s also the first time in many years that a multicamera sitcom (the kind filmed on a set with studio-audience laughter) has seemed so instinctively comfortable in its own skin. It doesn’t try to subvert or improve on the sitcom format; it simply exhibits faith that the sitcom genre can still work in a refreshing and relevant way.
Michelle Dockery has made an astonishing career swerve from Downton Abbey on PBS to TNT’s intriguing and impressively seedy crime drama Good Behavior. Dockery throws herself into the role of Letty Raines — a liar, thief and ex-con in North Carolina who sweats long shifts as a waitress and relies on a pleasant-voiced motivational app to keep her off drugs and booze, in between visits with her parole officer. The true accomplishment of Good Behavior is that none of this seems as hokey as it sounds. Dockery digs deep and gives a frenetic and often moving performance.
The intriguing CW series Frequency starts out looking as if it were going to be a bittersweet, nostalgia-tinged time-travel drama in the Stephen King-Twilight Zone lineage, and that probably would have made for a comfortably satisfying show, the kind you can half-watch while doing something else. In the last third of the premiere, though, things take a joltingly different, more complicated path. Sorry, couch potatoes, but it looks as if you might have to keep both eyes on the screen for this one.
Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.