Designated Survivor (ABC)
I picked up Designated Survivor, fully expecting it to be another 24. Though there are some elements that echo that overdone show, I was overall impressed with how this show turned out. A couple of episodes got way too preachy on liberal topics, and some of the terrorist scenarios were a bit unrealistic, but I nevertheless enjoyed the intelligence level that went into the bits where President Kirkman fought to become an effective president. It was amazing how many people wanted him to fail, and for different reasons.
The main premise of the show is probably the most unrealistic -- the idea of punishing someone by making him or her the designated survivor. The Secretary of HUD has indeed taken the position in the past, but the powers that be would not choose someone who had just been "fired" to take the "ignominious" role. Rather, the designated survivor is an honored role for someone who has a non-zero chance of becoming president in the event of a disaster.
After a couple of episodes, I was able to overlook that premise and enjoy the show.
The first half of the season focuses on the disaster's aftermath, while the second half focuses more on Kirkman's attempts to take charge of the White House, which I believe contained more of the intelligent bits.
One thing's for sure. I think our nation could use a person like Kirkman in office, to bring us all together despite all our differences. I'd pick this fictional character to be in office any day over the real President we have in there now.
I highly recommend catching this show if you haven't started already. All 21 episodes are currently available on Hulu.
The Good Place (NBC)
Creating a show about the afterlife, albeit a funny show, is always a risky move. Sometimes you end up with a mess, and sometimes you strike gold. The Good Place achieves the latter. Its ability to infuse the story with good philosophy and consistent mythology helps to deliver a high-intelligence funny story.
Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell) dies and finds herself in the Good Place. She is greeted with a large sign boasting, "Welcome! Everything is fine." Then Michael (Ted Danson) introduces himself and explains what's up.
The only problem is that Eleanor knows that she's a terrible person and comes to realize that a mistake has been made. When she confesses to her soulmate, Chidi, they both struggle to decide what to do next. Tell Michael? Try to help Eleanor become a good person so she becomes worthy of the Good Place? Any guesses what they decide to do?
Each episode, the writers introduce some traditional philosophical idea, which Eleanor then flips and turns on its head. So, not only do we get good laughs, but we get ideas that make us think. What exactly would we expect in "heaven"? How many people would really go to the Bad Place, and why?
A quick warning ... like most other funny shows on TV today, there are some sexual innuendos and topics, though nothing is shown. Also, Eleanor constantly tries to cuss, but since it's not allowed, the words get deflected. For example, she says, "What the fork?" often. I usually complain that these diversions are not necessary, but in this case, they actually fit into what the show attempts to accomplish.
I highly recommend watching -- and I look forward to Season 2. All Season 1 episodes are on Hulu.
I only caught this show because of a trailer I saw in the movie theaters. I had never heard of the Freeform channel, and only learned later that it's what used to be called "ABC Family."
Beyond caught my attention long enough to watch all ten episodes. It's a well-produced show with a good story, decent acting, good effects, and so on. However, overall it didn't seem to do much that was different. The title is unimaginative. The idea of a consistent world on the other side (where you go when you're in a coma) doesn't make sense.
Holden, after spending 12 years in a coma, awakens to find he has special powers. Some guys start chasing after him, killing people along the way. A strange girl approaches him and tries to warn, protect, guide, or something -- Holden's not sure exactly what her motives are.
There are some good episodes in there, and once or twice I felt the need to go ahead and watch the next one. The ending was kind of cool, but it doesn't answer all the questions. There's plenty to support a season 2, but will I continue to watch? Maybe, maybe not. I will if they promise to do something really different.
The entire season 1 is currently on Hulu -- yeah I caught all three of these shows on Hulu, though I think each of them are available for free on their respective network websites.
Also, just a quick note -- I think the new name for "ABC Family" is rather unfortunate. The whole time I watched Beyond, there were these little letters in the lower right corner that never went away, and I could have sworn that they said, "FREE PORN." I even showed it to a friend of mine and asked, "What does this say in the corner?" He corroborated my thoughts.