Desperation comes in many forms, and it can motivate many actions.
Great inspiration can be borne of a desperate situation; how many memorable ad campaigns did Don Draper dream up because he was up against a deadline with no ideas to sell? Witness the (albeit illegal) fortune Walter White created for his family because of perfectionism, ingenuity, a cunning mind, and a most assuredly fatal diagnosis?
(That the fortune’s fallout killed him and not the cancer is ironic karma at this point, really.)
But desperation can lead to some very ill-advised decisions as well, decisions that haunt as well as help. Jimmy Kimmel’s nightmares about last year’s best-picture announcement mix-up at the Oscars, which he hosted, still wake him up at night; he can’t even open his mail because of, you know, the envelopes. OK, it’s just an ad for this year’s telecast, but still: The effects of bad decisions made of desperation can linger.
About to learn that lesson are the three women of NBC’s “Good Girls,” premiering Monday. Fed up with coming up short at every turn – Ruby’s child is sick, Annie’s ex is suing her for custody, and Beth’s philandering husband squandered their savings on his affair – the lifelong three friends contemplate something drastic and out of character for the typical suburban housewife: grand larceny, in the form of a one-time robbery of their local grocery store.
Clad in ski masks, hoods and loose clothing, they expect they’ll come away with about $30,000, enough for each of them to regain a foothold on solid – liquid? – ground. What they come away with is far more than they expected – both in money and heat: Turns out the store had made one or two bad decisions out of desperation of its own.
Starring in this caper are Retta (“Parks and Recreation”) as Ruby, the desperate mom who would do anything to afford the expensive medication her daughter needs that neither she nor her husband, both employed, can cover. Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”) is Beth, the wife who discovers her cheating husband has made some bad decisions of his own. And Annie is played by Mae Whitman (“Parenthood”), whose son is her world and can’t afford a lawyer to fight her ex-husband’s attempt to take him away.
All are desperate, and all believe they are doing what they’re doing for the right reasons. That doesn’t seem to matter to the bad dudes who eventually decide they want their money back – and, no, it’s not the store management.
The show comes from Jenna Bans, a writer and producer with credits on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” a few shows that know their ways around twists and turns. Don’t be surprised if “Good Girls” follows something less than the straight and narrow. The show premieres at 9 p.m. Monday on Ch. 15.
Speaking of desperation: His name belies his intentions: Earnest “Earn” Marks, the lead character in “Atlanta” played by Donald Glover, who won an Emmy for the role for the show’s first season. After having been MIA all of last year, the FX show about aspiring rappers – and desperate hustlers – returns Thursday for a much-anticipated second season. Earn may want to earn, but he can’t – or won’t, not by traditional means. He spends his time hustling (in Earnest) for his would-be rapper cousin, Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Brian Tyree Henry), but his schemes tend to get him deeper in debt, in trouble with his girlfriend and baby mama and his own parents are wise enough to his ways they don’t let him stay at their house anymore. His family, friends, and acquaintances turn into marks for his latest schemes, and they run out of patience quick. Not only does “Atlanta” showcase the talents of Glover, who writes, stars, directs, and produces the show, but also it exposes that side of black life unseen to most of the world: run-ins with the police, family life and family estrangement, power dynamics – mostly everything we all experience, only here it’s imbued with a certain knowing eye that, even in a city as black as Atlanta, racism not only exists, but persists. And though it’s classified as a comedy – and, granted, there are plenty of amusing moments – “Atlanta” skews more toward seriousness than silliness. The second season of “Atlanta” premieres at 9 p.m. Thursday on FX.
Trying to be better: “Living Biblically,” a new CBS sitcom starting Monday, follows a newspaper film critic on the cusp of fatherhood as he decides to live strictly as the good book dictates. Jay R. Ferguson is Chip, who wants to be a better man; and Ian Gomez is Father Gene, and David Krumholtz is Rabbi Gil, his “God Squad” to help him along his journey. “Living Biblically,” which takes its inspiration from A.J. Jacobs’ book, “The Year of Living Biblically,” premieres at 8:30 p.m. Monday on Ch. 3.
More desperation: On Monday, AMC introduces “McMafia,” a global thriller that tells the story of an English-raised son of Russian exiles trying to forge a legitimate business, while keeping his family’s past involvement with the Russian mafia under wraps. Surprise! Shadowy pasts never stay hidden very long. The show stars James Norton as Alex Goodman, who is desperately trying not to slip into the world of organized crime; the opportunities seem to crop up around each corner, and soon it’s clear Alex’s family may be in danger thanks to his determination to remain independence. David Straithairn and Juliet Rylance also star; “McMafia” premieres at 9 p.m. Monday on AMC.
They’re back, baby! Now that the Olympics are nearing an end – the Closing Ceremony will air at 7 p.m. Sunday on Ch. 15, delayed from its live schedule at 5 a.m. – new episodes of your favorite shows are on the way. Not soon enough is the second half of “The Walking Dead,” which revs up at 8 p.m. Sunday on AMC. A few things are assured: an ultimate showdown between Rick and Negan; favorite characters will die; things will look bleak, and then they won’t. NBC’s “The Voice” returns at 7 p.m. Monday on Ch. 15; new judge/coach Kelly Clarkson assumes one of the chairs this time around. The 36th season of CBS’ juggernaut “Survivor” gets under way at 7 p.m. Wednesday on Ch. 3; the subhead to the title is “Ghost Island,” promising some memories of seasons’ past. And NBC’s “A.P. Bio” officially premieres Thursday with two episodes scheduled at 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. on Ch. 15.