In recent years, it’s been increasingly more difficult to find new comedies that work on network TV. In an effort to hedge their bets this year, both NBC and CBS have turned to familiar faces in hopes they will draw a large enough audience to survive.
NBC is banking on Kristen Bell in “The Good Place,” while CBS has brought back Kevin James in the half-hour comedy, “Kevin Can Wait.”
Both launch Monday, Sept. 19.
‘The Good Place’
Bell, the former star of “Veronica Mars” and “Heroes,” plays Eleanor Shellstrop, a woman who finds herself in the afterlife. This version of the afterlife is a collection of tranquil communities especially designed to be a paradise for those who have been fortunate enough to be selected for admittance. The only problem is they picked the wrong Eleanor.
“The characteristics that Eleanor displays when she gets to the good place are not malicious. They’re not evil. She’s been living by this guideline that isn’t it every man for himself and shouldn’t I be putting myself first?” Bell says. “Unless she discovers how to be a good person, she’s not going to be able to earn her place there.”
Series creator Michael Schur got the idea for the show while driving around Los Angeles. He began to wonder what it would be like if someone were actually keeping score for the good and bad things a person does. You don’t get into the “Good Place” without enough points.
Bell has built up a strong following over the years, but she’s not going to have to carry the load alone. She’s joined by Ted Danson, who spent years on NBC in “Cheers,” who plays the caretaker of the heavenly spot.
Danson describes the role as being in middle management.
“My desire is to make sure that literally every blade of grass is perfect for these beautiful, remarkable people,” Danson says. “We’ve had a clerical error. I’m all of a sudden over my head. I get to be nice and caring and loving but also way over my head. So there’s something funny to play in that.”
‘Kevin Can Wait’
The concept behind “Kevin Can Wait” is retirement. James plans for leisurely days but finds a lot of challenges with his family.
“Kevin Can Wait” brings James back to the four-camera sitcom style that was used to create “The King of Queens.” Returning to the familiar format was not an easy decision for James. He likes the style, but he likes to do different things in his career.
“So you say you want to do something different, but automatically you lose half your audience, the people who enjoyed that, what you were doing, and so you do more of that,” James says. “The trick is, I think we’ve done it really well, is to kind of do a blend of both.”
Assisting James in his return to network TV is Erinn Hayes, whose TV comedy credentials range from “The Hotwives of Las Vegas” to “Childrens Hospital.”
New and returning shows Monday, Sept. 19
- 8 p.m. “The Big Bang Theory,” CBS (Channel 47.1)
- 8 p.m. “The Voice,” NBC (Channel 24.1)
- 8 p.m. “Gotham,” FOX (Channel 26.1)
- 8:30 p.m. “Kevin Can Wait,” CBS
- 9 p.m. “Lucifer,” FOX
- 10 p.m. “The Good Place,” NBC
New and returning shows Tuesday, Sept. 20
- 8 p.m. “The Voice,” NBC
- 8 p.m. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” FOX
- 8 p.m. “NCIS,” CBS
- 8:30 p.m. “The New Girl,” FOX
- 9 p.m. “Scream Queens,” FOX
- 9 p.m. “Bull,” CBS
- 10 p.m. “This Is Us,” NBC
- 10 p.m. NCIS: New Orleans,” CBS
- 10 p.m. Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” ABC (Channel 30.1)