Robert and Michelle King occupy a unique space in television. They're seemingly the only producers allowed to make broadcast dramas with any personality. Their breakthrough series, The Good Wife, was one of the last great broadcast dramas, and by "last" I mean both "most recent" and "final" (probably). They followed that up with BrainDead, which lasted only one season on CBS but was genuinely quirky in a way broadcast series rarely are (those singer-songwriter recaps were innovative, man), and The Good Fight, the Good Wife spin-off on CBS All Access that's even less beholden to convention than its predecessor was. The Good Fight even got censored for political content, which means it took a stand on something. And now the Kings are back on broadcast with Evil, a supernatural drama that's familiar in its format but genuinely different in its details from everything else on broadcast right now.
Evil tells the story of a forensic psychologist named Dr. Kristen Bouchard (Katja Herbers), whose main gig is providing expert testimony for the Queens DA's office. But when she refuses to lie under oath, she loses the contract. And with four daughters to support and a husband who's away climbing mountains, she takes on a new job she wouldn't normally entertain: helping a Catholic priest-in-training named David Acosta (Mike Colter) and his gadget-handy colleague Ben (Aasif Mandvi) investigate reports of unexplained, potentially supernatural phenomena in order to determine whether it's scientifically or medically explicable, or if a miracle occurred or an exorcism needs to be performed. She's the skeptic, and Acosta wants to believe.
So, yes, the format is The X-Files. There's even a will-they/won't-they dynamic between the leads. That's not the creative part. The creative part is George, a sleep paralysis demon who appears in Kristen's dreams to provide eeriness, exposition, and psychological depth. Played by creature-suit specialist Marti Matulis in heavy prosthetic makeup, George is a blue-black goblin with yellow eyes ringed with red, sharp claws, an even sharper knife, and a menacing English accent. Whether or not he's real is left ambiguous, as is the existence of demons as a whole. The demon thing is a way to talk about what the show is actually more interested in, which is how evil ideas spread like a virus from person to person. In this case, it's through Leland Townsend, a psychopathic "connector" who meets other psychopaths over social media and encourages them to commit murder and claim demonic possession as a way to get away with it. Townsend is played by Michael Emerson, a veteran of one of the other last great broadcast dramas, Person of Interest. He's a representative of The 60, some kind of demonic-psychopathic conspiracy that will get teased out of the course of the series' cases of the week.
Evil is the best new broadcast show of the season by a considerable margin, and it will be very fun to watch it settle into itself and play with its form and tone even more, the way The Good Wife did. Hopefully it's not too weird for primetime.
TV Guide Rating: 3.5/5
Evil premieres Thursday, Sept. 26 at 10/9c on CBS.
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