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Review: 'Elsbeth,' a spinoff of 'The Good Wife,' is the most promising network drama since 'This Is Us'

Neal Justin, Star Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

"Elsbeth" is technically a spinoff of "The Good Wife." It's created by the same superstar team, Michelle and Robert King, and features one of the 2009-16 courtroom drama's most memorable guest stars. But it's really more of a reboot of "Columbo."

In the premiere episode, airing at 10 p.m. ET Thursday on CBS, Elsbeth Tascioni, a seemingly scatterbrained defense attorney, arrives in New York to oversee a possibly corrupt police unit. At first, she seems more obsessed with seeing "Cats" than being a watchdog. But just like on "The Good Wife" and "The Good Fight," Tascioni is paying attention. Her ability to notice details and pester suspects works to her advantage, just like it did for a certain cigar-chomping detective in a crumbled raincoat.

"Elsbeth" is the second show in recent memory to be inspired by Peter Falk's procedural. Peacock's "Poker Face," starring Natasha Lyonne, even went so far as the mimic the old series' opening credits.

But Tascioni has more in common with Columbo than Lyonne's character did. Tascioni initially seems harmless, lulling her targets into thinking they're dealing with a pesky 8-year-old. Then she pounces.

Carrie Preston, who plays the role, has been around since the mid-1980s. You can catch her in the Oscar-nominated film "The Holdovers." But she's rarely been front and center. The actor takes full advantage of the opportunity, bringing vivacity and warmth to her kooky crimefighter. At the end of her first case, she offers her confessed killer a cookie. More than once, she pops her head into the camera frame like a bystander who just wandered into a shoot. If Preston has been an outsider in the past, she won't be for long.

Also this week ...

'Carole King & James Taylor: Just Call Out My Name'

This documentary, which originally aired on CNN in 2022, isn't much of a history lesson. But if you want to hear the longtime friends harmonize on their greater hits, you're in for a treat. The footage from their 2010 Troubadour Reunion Tour captures the legends having a ball with Taylor scatting with abandonment on "Country Road" and King kicking up her heels on "I Feel the Earth Move." 9:30 p.m. Saturday, PBS

 

'Iwájú'

This collaboration between Walt Disney Animation Studios and the Pan-African entertainment company Kugali is set in futuristic Nigeria with flying taxis and a robot salamander. The six episodes work best when they give us a taste of contemporary culture. Disney+

'American Conspiracy: The Octopus Murders'

Those convinced that corruption is all around us will want to check out this unsettling docuseries that dives deep into a theory that American intelligence agencies and the criminal world are in cahoots. The tentacles touch the Iran-Contra arms deal, Indian reservation gambling and even the Kennedy assassination. Prepare to get paranoid. Netflix

'The Second Best Hospital in the Galaxy'

There are plenty of icky moments in this animated series and I suspect that's just the way creator Cirocco Dunlap wants it. If you can handle the anxiety parasites and talking snacks that shriek as they meet their doom, you get a thought-provoking medical comedy that's not scared to address serious ethical issues. Prime Video


©2024 StarTribune. Visit startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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