Chapter 1 - Everything Is Fine
Season 1, Episode 1
September 19, 2016
I have to admit, I watched this the week it came out and wasn't sold on the show. I liked a lot in it, but I don't think I saw how the concept could sustain a series. So initially I didn't continue past the second episode (broadcast the same night as this). But it stayed in my head, and a few weeks later, as every other new series of the season failed to impress me even more (such high hopes for Son of Zorn...) I went back to it (fortunately I kept it on my DVR schedule), liked the later episodes a lot and went back to catch up and wondered why I wasn't all-in from the start.
It's pretty impressive, in retrospect, how much is in the first 23 minutes. We get a lot of Eleanor, of course, and that makes sense since we now know that she is the answer. All the selfishness and arrogance and ability to cover it up with endless charm, scheming and quick thinking. I love some of the facial expressions Bell pulls off. For Michael, it's impossible not to see it now with the knowledge that he's putting on an act, and how it informs the choices that Danson makes in subtle ways. We get enough of Chidi, with the stomachaches and everything, though it would take a few episodes to flesh him out. The rest do enough to be interesting, although they'd have to wait for their focus episodes to really come together.
Some other things.
Once you find out (from the podcast) that Ted Danson pronounces it "Eleaner", but didn't know he did, it's hard to un-hear it. It's very obvious in these early episodes.
Eleanor on her parents: "Maybe they're being used to torture each other. It would work." Wow, talk about telegraphing the ending...
The ridiculous lack of stairs to Eleanor's bedroom, her craving for shrimp, the clown paintings. All stuff that would really pay-off down the line.
The jokes that need freeze-frame start early, with Michael's film about the points system. Which we now know he was just making up. I'm sure in the real system using "Facebook" as a verb costs way more than -5.55 points. And the substitute swear words are there from the start. And the audaciousness of the absolutely insane chaos sequence at the end is a good declaration that this isn't a normal network show. It's hard for me to believe that I didn't love it from the start.
Podcast episode for this chapter was Marc Evan Jackson (he plays Shawn) interviewing creator Michael Schur for almost an hour, released June 1, 2018, so from the perspective of having finished filming most or all of season 3. Lots of fascinating stuff on the genesis of the series and evolution of the characters.