Elsbeth has premiered on CBS, and we’re all in.

The show garnered 4.5 million views and improved its CBS time slot by 45% over last year.

Already fielding favorable comparisons to the classic Columbo and the more modern success Poker Face, Elsbeth combines a winning story formula with good timing to set the show up as an instant hit.

This spin-off of The Good Wife and The Good Fight was an odd choice. The show hinges on Elsbeth’s new job observing the NYPD for signs of corruption.

Why would a lawyer from Chicago be called in for this job? What are her credentials?

As she states in the pilot episode, Elsbeth has never actually been to a crime scene — she’s only seen crime scene photos in the courtroom.

So how can someone with no experience in crime scene investigation even spot corruption?

Dropping an unlikely character into a detective procedural was a bold move, but Elsbeth makes it work.

For starters, she’s such a dynamic character. Like Columbo, she’s off-beat, but she’s whip-smart. She knows whodunit from the first meeting and zeroes in with unyielding questions brilliantly designed to wear her suspect down.

Her method works so far. Ask enough questions, and a murderer is bound to slip up.

Elsbeth is also totally charming. On Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 1, even our murderer is taken with her.

Bedecked in bright colors and lugging her many tote bags, we can’t keep our eyes off Elsbeth. Even when she’s not the focal point in the scene, we can still see her in the background piecing together clues. She’s a joy to watch and easy to root for.

Although she’s not a cop, and shouldn’t be involving herself in high-profile murder investigations, we love to see her break the rules and solve the case.

Elsbeth is also brilliantly acted. She only appeared in a total of 19 episodes of The Good Wife and The Good Fight, yet Carrie Preston managed to secure an Emmy win for her portrayal of Elsbeth Tascioni.

If she can hold her own next to the likes of Julianna Margulies and Christine Baranski, it’s no wonder she got her own show.

Preston commands attention in every scene and plays the quirky Elsbeth so naturally.

Her feigned innocence as she sets her master plan in motion to catch the killer shows her ability to use her eccentricity to her advantage.

She appears meek, flighty, unsuspecting — lulling her suspect into a false sense of security before she pounces.

Unlike many murder mystery shows, Elsbeth doesn’t hold her cards close to the vest. Instead, she reveals the details of the case and her suspicions to her suspect.

While this can initially seem like a bad idea, it works in her favor. Elsbeth uses this tactic to rattle the suspect until they inevitably slip.

And she does it so well that the murderer can’t even be mad about it.

As a detective procedural, Elsbeth bucks the norms of the genre. Like Columbo and Poker Face before it, Elsbeth opens each episode with the murder.

We know whodunit from the beginning, and rather than solving the case alongside Elsbeth, we get to sit back and watch her in action.

We wait to see if she picks up on an important detail (and, of course, she does). We watch, frustrated, as the NYPD focuses on another suspect, casting Elsbeth’s suspicions aside.

It’s a formula that has worked in the past, and it’s working now.

Elsbeth is also not a show that takes itself too seriously. And maybe that’s just what we need right now.

We know that the backstory of Elsbeth moving to NYC to observe the NYPD doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but the show is so fun that we can’t bring ourselves to care.

We delight in Elsbeth’s antics, almost forgetting that it’s murder we’re talking about here.

The tone is never somber, so we can turn off our brains and enjoy watching Elsbeth at work.

Elsbeth’s instant success is also boosted by the success of similar shows in its genre. Columbo was a big hit in its day, and, more recently, Poker Face enjoyed critical acclaim.

When Suits began streaming on Netflix in 2023, the show saw a massive surge in popularity, becoming the most-streamed show on the platform last year.

Elsbeth has filled the lawyer-driven, case-of-the-week void left after everyone binge-watched Suits. The timing sets Elsbeth up for success.

So we have to wonder why we have to wait so long for Episode 2.

The first episode of Elsbeth Season 1 premiered the last week of February and drew lots of positive attention and critical acclaim. Now, we have to wait over a month for Episode 2. Where’s the sense in that?

Why wouldn’t the network want to bank on the current buzz over Elsbeth by airing Episode 2 sooner? With a month to wait for a new story, will the show lose its steam?

Before Episode 2 airs in April, CBS plans to air the pilot a second time. We’re not sure of the logic behind that decision, but we know we’re ready to see Elsbeth in action with a new murder to solve.

We’re also dying to learn more about the possible corruption involving Captain Wagner.

If CBS is trying to build anticipation by making us wait, it might be working, but we wish we didn’t have to wait so long!

Though Elsbeth is being lauded as an instant hit after the pilot episode premiered last week, it will need to tread carefully to maintain that status.

Elsbeth benefits from a character many people already know and love. However, she only appeared in a handful of episodes on two longer-running shows.

Will she be able to hold our attention full-time?

While Carrie Preston wears quirk and charm well, she’ll need to be careful not to come off as cloying. So far, she’s found her sweet spot.

And though fans of procedurals know to expect a new case each episode and a familiar format, Elsbeth will need to make sure the murders and guest stars are interesting enough to keep the show from feeling repetitive.

Though the modern “golden age of television” may be winding down, there’s still a lot of great TV out there. New shows need to work extra hard to stand out.

Elsbeth is doing a great job of that, supported by fun writing, a winning formula, and Carrie Preston’s delightful acting.

We suspect Elsbeth is here to stay.

How do you feel about Elsbeth after the premiere? Let us know in the comments, and stay tuned as we bring you new Elsbeth episode reviews right after they air.

Shela Ward is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow her on X.

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