The fall 2016 television season kicked into high gear this week, starting with Sunday’s Emmy Awards, which featured some nice surprises (Tatiana Maslany) and beautifully sincere speeches (Jeffrey Tambor, Sterling K. Brown, Sarah Paulson, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus). On Monday, Dancing with the Stars gave us “TV Night,” and little did we all know how empty our lives had been before we saw Laurie Hernandez dancing to the theme from DuckTales. Also on Monday (and Thursday), The Good Place proved to be the smart, funny, and emotionally engaging comedy I was hoping it would be. On Tuesday, Brooklyn Nine-Nine returned with a hilarious look at Jake and Captain Holt’s life in the Witness Protection Program; New Girl reminded me why I fell in love with the show years ago, thanks to a stellar season premiere; and the pilot of This Is Us lived up to every expectation I had for it. Wednesday’s ABC comedies were all excellent, with a perfect Breakfast Club tribute on The Goldbergs; a fantastic pilot episode of Speechless; an entertaining return for Modern Family; and a fun Walt Disney World trip on black-ish. On Thursday, the pilot of Pitch showed enough heart, style, and substance to hook me from the start. And Friday’s episode of Girl Meets World reminded us all of a very important lesson: You can’t control every aspect of your life; you can only control how you react to what happens in your life.
Overall, this was the best week of television I’ve watched in a very long time. I wasn’t disappointed with anything I watched, which is impressive because I often have unrealistically high expectations for premieres and pilots. I enjoyed every minute of television I watched this week, and I watched many minutes of television.
Grouped together, I loved the three big twists that new shows served up this week, which shouldn’t be a shock to anyone given how much I love when television shows can still pleasantly surprise me.
SPOILERS FOR THE GOOD PLACE, THIS IS US, AND PITCH AHEAD!
I thoroughly enjoyed the ending of Thursday’s episode of The Good Place, which showed us that Eleanor isn’t the only person who was sent to the Good Place by mistake. It opened up some great new avenues for storytelling, and it took a cool concept and made it even more interesting. Also on Thursday, I was blown away by the twist at the end of Pitch. It was one of those moments that made me want to watch everything I just saw again, knowing now that Ginny isn’t just a “robot in cleats” who’s malfunctioning because of the way her father pushed her; she is also working through the fact that she achieved his dream for her but he isn’t alive to see it. And, of course, I enjoyed the new season’s most hyped twist: the connection between all the main characters on This Is Us. For most of the episode, I was already wondering if the twist was that Jack and Rebecca were actually Kate and Kevin’s parents, but I got immediately choked up the moment when Jack was first introduced to the orphan who would grow up to be Randall and it became clear that he was going to take care of that baby as his own.
Ultimately, though, my favorite part of the pilot of This Is Us—and my favorite scene on television this week—was when “Doctor K.” talked to Jack after they lost the third triplet. The moment was filled with such sincere emotion, with a beautiful monologue delivered by Gerald McRaney and Milo Ventimiglia breaking my heart without saying a word. The entire pilot was well written, but this moment was a standout. It was a tribute to optimism, hope, and the human capacity for goodness in the face of the worst life has to offer, and there can never be enough of that in a media landscape that seems to grow more cynical every day. I have watched this scene an embarrassing number of times since Tuesday night, and I still cry every time Dr. K. tells Jack that he’ll still be taking three babies home. It’s a rare thing for a moment in a television pilot to make me cry; we don’t know the characters yet, so it’s hard to invest in their emotions right away. But this scene did exactly that with its bravery in wearing its heart on its sleeve so early in the game. The world needs more shows about good people trying their best to do good things, and that’s exactly what This Is Us seems to be.
What was the best thing you saw on TV this week?