Thursday, September 26, 2019

REVIEW: 'Perfect Harmony' - Arthur Begins Coaching a Church Choir in Small Town Kentucky in 'Pilot'

NBC's Perfect Harmony - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

When former Princeton music professor Arthur Cochran unexpectedly stumbles into choir practice at a small-town church, he finds a group of singers that are out of tune in more ways than one. Despite the ultimate clash of sensibilities, Arthur and his newfound cohorts may just be the perfect mix of individuals to help each other reinvent and rediscover a little happiness, just when they all need it most.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of NBC's Perfect Harmony.

"Pilot" was written by Lesley Wake Webster and directed by Jason Winer

There is a familiar structure at play within this premiere. It's the story where the audience comes to embrace a ragtag team of underdogs in the hopes of them pulling off a major upset in a competition. The only real way the show bucks the convention is the fact that the church choir doesn't win. They still lose to the megachurch down the road which always seems to prevail. That's really the only unconventional plot twist that occurs here. Even that is somewhat reasonable and expected because the show needs to provide some sense of direction for an ongoing series. If the church were to win the competition at the conclusion of the premiere, then where would they be able to go by the time of the finale? Plus, the choir pulls that performance out of nowhere. They beg Arthur to stay and coach them. He isn't interested. He doesn't want to be in this community any longer than he needs to be. Sure, the show teases that he is suicidal even though that is just a passing glimpse of nuance instead of something that truly defines who he is. He is quickly able to come back to life. Sure, he immediately presents as a teacher who is abundantly cruel with his honesty. He doesn't make friends easily. And yet, all of this depends on this small Kentucky town rallying around him and giving him the emotional support he needs. That's what the journey of the premiere is ultimately about. It has nothing to do with this choir wanting to work cohesively in the hopes of brightening the spirits of others and winning this competition. Instead, it's all about making Arthur feel better. He is teaching again. They see the value he brings to the group. They need his guidance in order to make them seem like a choir that expertly compliments each other. But Arthur didn't have the brilliant idea to mash a familiar church hymn with a pop song. The show is also blatant in saying that it took this conceit from Glee as well. That's a part of Reverend Jax's ongoing humor of referring to movies and television shows by different titles based on what they are actually about. That is a joke that works some of the time. It's never perfect though. In fact, it's a little incredulous to believe that the choir is capable of putting all of this together without Arthur's support. That makes it seem like he isn't all that necessary to reviving this community. They are losing their members to the megachurch. That reverend has a very pompous attitude. Arthur only sticks around because he wants to take this guy down. It's not about honoring his late wife. She would want him to find a way to keep on living. This premiere just makes it seem like a quick emotional turnaround for this guy. He just needs the right support system around him. He lost one in his wife. He gains another here with this church choir. He helps them with their problems. But again, it feels like everything happens a little too easily here. Just because Arthur says something, the rest of the community immediately listens to him and changes their past behavior. That doesn't seem all that significant. It mostly presents as the show knowing that some growth needs to take place in order to make the series more palatable on an ongoing basis. But it's still confusing exactly how it's going to work episode to episode. Right now, it could embrace the small town charms of this world. Music will have to play a part as well. It just remains unclear what the audience should precisely be latching onto here. That's unfortunate because the ensemble is very pleasant overall.