Good Girls: “Pilot” – Review

Good Girls premieres February 26th, 10pm on NBC.

By Jeffery Shallenbarger

Pilot episodes are tough to nail. Not only must it set up the basic premise and establish the shows characters, but it must also get the audience wanting to see more. Some of my favorite shows have had terrible pilots. Seinfeld, for example, has one of the worst pilots I’ve ever seen. That’s why I am so surprised at how well Good Girls—a mid-season replacement—sticks its landing.

Good Girls escapes the problems of other new shows by letting the characters develop organically, rather than through clunky exposition. We first learn of Annie’s (played by Arrested Development and Parenthood’s Mae Whitman) struggles as a single mother of a gender non-binary daughter through her parking down the street from the school to save her daughter the embarrassment of being seen in such a crummy car. We learn that Beth’s (Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks) seemingly picture-perfect family has a darkness lurking in the shadows when we see her husband (Matthew Lillard) performing oral sex on a woman at work. (My, how network television has changed!) Ruby (Parks and Recreation’s Retta), the character with the highest stakes as well as the most rounded moral compass, is introduced by showing her daughter giving a presentation while hooked up to an oxygen tank.

By letting us grow with these characters as they progress through the story, we are able to experience the mess they fall into along with them. We feel their desperation, we try to think of ways to get out of their situation, and we cover our faces when they make things even worse.

As a dramedy, the show never really bends too far in either direction. The heaviness is always tempered with enough humor to be easily digested, and yet, the humor never spoils your appetite for what happens next. There is silliness aplenty—especially with the Annie character—but unlike a show like Scrubs, it’s all grounded in reality. These all seem like real people.

If there is one flaw with the show, it’s that the “villain” is a bit generic. Without getting into spoiler country, Claws has a similar premise, and yet its villain is a character in his own right. He’s an ostensibly straight mob boss with a male sex slave. The villain in Good Girls, however, doesn’t have much going for him. He has burly henchmen to carry out his dirty work, and has a knack for finding loopholes in diner menus. Beyond that, he’s just kind of bland. Maybe he will develop as the season progresses, or maybe he’s intentionally bland so that the focus remains on the women, their situation, and the sprawling criminal network they have accidentally entered.

Even if it doesn’t develop, the show is definitely worth checking out. The women leads are fantastic, Matthew Lillard yet again shows just how great he is at playing a man whose life is falling apart, and the story is engaging in a way that is rarely seen on network television.

I give the first episode of Good Girls an A.