NBC premiered Perfect Harmony, on Thursday, September 26, a new show about a former Princeton music professor who trains a small church choir in Kentucky. While the comedy does show some heart, it still relies on stereotypes about rural Christians who need an arrogant agnostic professor to help them reach their full potential.
In Kentucky after the death of his Kentucky-born wife, the professor, Arthur (Bradley Whitford), is saved from suicide in his car by the sound of the church choir’s amusingly bad singing. The choir’s characters are genuinely loving and forgiving with one another and their warmth and honesty draws in Arthur. Their faith is genuine and the show itself demonstrates a belief in God through various signs, despite Arthur groaning at hearing the phrase, “God works in mysterious ways.”
Unfortunately, the show also reaches for the dumb Christian country bumpkin trope at times. The choir only knows the name “University of Princeton” from basketball teams and the sweet church piano player does not recognize historical names like “Yeats” and “Churchill” when Arthur discovers her son is dyslexic and he names famous people who have had the condition and excelled. Also, as with most sitcoms nowadays, the show ultimately dismisses the effects of a marital break-up on a child.
What direction the show will take remains to be seen. Will future episodes fall back on false stereotypes in flashes of lazy writing or will the warm-hearted moments be its new direction? While the show premiered with the little church needing the Princeton professor to rescue their choir, there are signs that the ensemble of Christian characters will continue to play an equal or greater role in saving the professor in future episodes. In the end, the cantankerous choir director accepts them into his home as they make him breakfast and begin to revitalize his place and, most likely, his life.