Getting let go from a job I loved was exceedingly not great, but the unexpected free time lent itself to some real television discovery. In the three weeks I was jobless earlier this year, I started and finished about 10 shows. Here’s what stood out.
The Good Place
IMDB description: The Good Place is a town where those who have been good throughout their lives go once they have passed away. Michael (Ted Danson) is the architect who oversees the town. Eleanor (Kristen Bell) arrives at the Good Place and realizes she doesn’t deserve to be there. With the help of Chidi (William Jackson Harper), Eleanor tries to right her wrongs seeking to finally earn her spot in the Good Place.
My take: Superb writing, bolstered by strong performances and some famous faces, carries what could be a boring premise. Kristen Bell plays a not-great (but not evil) person who dies and mistakenly finds herself in “the good place” — kind of like heaven. Amid meditations on what Paradise might look like for different people and what it means to be a good person is a fun little storyline about the chaos that comes from Eleanor’s mistaken placement in The Good Place.
Best episode(s): The twist in the season finale, “Michael’s Gambit” (Season 1, Episode 13) sets up a potentially fascinating second season.
Where to watch: Entire series on Hulu (free with subscription) and NBC’s app (free with cable login); NBC hasn’t yet announced a release date for Season 2.
You’re The Worst
IMDB description: Centers on two toxic, self-destructive people who fall in love and attempt a relationship.
My take: I wanted to hate this show. FXX’s formula for edgy comedies about ill-behaved people gets stale fast — “The League” is unwatchable now, and early seasons of “Archer” aren’t as funny as I remember. Jimmy, the narcissistic novelist character, is insufferable in the first episode but the writers develop him well after that. The series succeeds because of its characters, including a rap trio (one of Gretchen’s clients) that I suspect is based on Migos.
Best episode(s): The way they deal with Gretchen’s bout of depression is authentic and without judgment. See that in “Side Bitch” (Season 2, Episode 6) and “Fix Me, Dummy” (Season 3, Episode 2). Edgar’s PTSD is also a running topic that comes to head in “Twenty Two” (Season 3, Episode 5).
Where to watch: Entire series on Hulu (free with subscription) and Amazon Video ($10-$19 per season); new episodes are set to debut this year on FXX.
The Santa Clarita Diet
IMDB description: Sheila and Joel are married real estate agents in Santa Clarita, California. When Sheila dies, their lives take a dark turn.
My take: I’m not into zombie stuff and not crazy about Drew Barrymore in general, but something about this show just works. It’s darkly funny, the parts that don’t involve zombies are relatable, and it’s only a little gross. Timothy Olyphant is great as a hot dad navigating a weird family situation and occasionally smoking pot in his car.
Best episode(s): “The Farting Sex Tourist” (Season 1, Episode 4) and “Strange or Just Inconsiderate?” (Season 1, Episode 7) stand out for their careful attention to the family dynamics.
Where to watch: Season 1 is on Netflix now. Season 2 is set to debut in 2018.