TV tonight: 'Kevin' can wait, 'Good Place' shouldn't have to

Kevin Can Wait
Kevin James with Erinn Hayes in "Kevin Can Wait."

KEVIN CAN WAIT. 8:30 p.m. Monday, CBS3.

THE GOOD PLACE. Hour-long preview at 10 p.m. Monday, time-slot premiere 8:30 p.m. Thursday, NBC10.

Read Ellen Gray's Fall TV Preview.

I'm not sure how many people still watch TV in real time, but it's possible on Monday to go directly from a new CBS comedy whose title is a play on Heaven Can Wait to Fox's Lucifer before proceeding to NBC's The Good Place, a comedy set in a place some might call paradise.

Meanwhile, the season premiere of Fox's Gotham, "Mad City: Better to Reign in Hell ..." is up against the 10th season premiere of CBS's The Big Bang Theory.

One day into the broadcast networks' official premiere week, and we already have a heaven-or-hell theme going.

If the thought of spending even part of an evening thinking about life, death, and the romantic lives of eggheads makes your head hurt, Kevin James is waiting for you.

The former King of Queens returns as a just-retired New York cop named Kevin in Kevin Can Wait, and even though he's a movie star now, it feels as though he never left.

James' new character has three children - Kendra (Taylor Spreitler), Sara (Mary-Charles Jones), and Jack (James DiGiacomo) - and a wife named Donna (Erinn Hayes), but like Queens' Doug Heffernan, he's a man with an abiding love of food.

Kevin's postretirement plans involve go-carts, paintball, and beer (not necessarily in that order). Look for some of those plans to be upset in Monday's premiere as a family situation forces some changes.

Created by James with Bruce Helford (The Drew Carey Show), Kevin Can Wait is the most ordinary of dumb-dad sitcoms. James, though, is so winning I wouldn't blame anyone for wanting to hang with him.

I only hope that's not a disqualification for entry into The Good Place.

A new comedy from Michael Schur (Parks and Recreation), it's set in an afterlife where only the very best of us can hope to end up - a place, we're told, about which none of the world's major religions has been more than 5 percent right.

Ted Danson stars as the celestial architect of a new planned community meant to reward those whose lifetime of good deeds has outweighed their bad according to an elaborate point system. Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars) is Eleanor, a self-absorbed new arrival who may have inadvertently been sent to the wrong place.

Premiering in back-to-back episodes after The Voice before moving to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays, The Good Place has silly fun with Eleanor's attempts to say words that mostly still can't be said on NBC, but it's also seriously funny. And I'm not just saying that because there is, gloriously, a 53.83-point deduction for telling a woman to smile.

Bell and Danson, whose character isn't as much in control as he appears at first, are both kind of adorable and so is William Jackson Harper as Chidi, Eleanor's designated "soul mate," a Senegalese philosophy professor she cajoles into teaching her how to be good before she's discovered to be a fraud and sent to the not-so-good place.

It's a dynamic we've seen before, in the short-lived Selfie and in the first season of the CW's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and there may be a certain amount of millennial woman-shaming here (although it appears it's also mostly the young who die good).

But the five episodes I've seen of The Good Place showed it to be smart with heart, and that combination should be worth a fair number of afterlife points.

What to watch Monday: The Big Bang Theory, which doesn't return to Thursdays until Oct. 27, The Good Place.

What you might DVR: The last 90 minutes of The Voice (or, if you prefer, ABC's Dancing with the Stars), Gotham.

What to skip: The conclusion of CBS's The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey, one of far too many shows pegged to the forthcoming 20th anniversary of that poor child's death. If this is the one that happens to break the case wide open, someone will tell you.

graye@phillynews.com

215-854-5950 N @elgray

Blog: ph.ly/EllenGray