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New NBC sitcom ‘Perfect Harmony’ fights through the darkness with song


Grouchy old white man stumbles into small Southern town and finds new life isn’t a revolutionary narrative. But “Perfect Harmony” may be just what we need anyway.

The NBC sitcom, a musical comedy about former Princeton music professor Arthur Cochran (Bradley Whitford) and his accidental introduction to a small-town church and its unimpressive choir, comes at the perfect time — no pun intended — in a TV landscape full of morbid shows that look too much like reality. This, finally, is light and breezy and fun.

“My character, Arthur, is a blast,” Whitford told the Daily News. “Characters who have lost everything and have nothing left to lose ... there’s a lot of freedom in that. He’s pretentious and he’s bitter, but there’s a huge broken heart in there that makes him want to connect, in spite of himself. He’s a fun mix of harsh and sweet.”

Premiering Thursday at 8:30 p.m., “Perfect Harmony” is part ”Glee,” part “Sweet Home Alabama,” a sugary mix of gospel and pop songs and a perky Southern blond (Anna Camp) who thinks she can fix everyone. Camp’s Ginny, at least in the pilot, is a one-note character — again, no pun intended — who doesn’t seem capable of deep thought. But she’s sweet and well-meaning and yeah, maybe a little clueless, but not everyone has to be a Princeton professor, and not every TV show has to go into the pantheon.

This won’t. But the show, based on creator Lesley Wake Webster’s own childhood — she based Arthur on her grandfather, who went to Westminster College and “spent his life in choirs” before moving to rural Kentucky — believes in the goodness inherent in all of us.

“My grandpa drank a fifth of Wild Turkey starting at 4 in the afternoon,” Webster told The News. “What brought him out of his depression after my grandmother’s death was that he got involved in a local choir. It was a very ragtag group of people, farmers and hairdressers and people who worked at the feed store, who were excited to have a professional choral director. He would get up in front of them and all of the angst and depression would fall away just for that hour.

“It became a question of who rescued who.”

It’s cheesy, sure, this idea of music saving our souls, but it’s nice, too. Maybe it could actually be that easy. Maybe “Glee” had the right idea after all.

Everyone has those songs. A song that makes you smile and a song that makes you cry. One for remembering an ex. One that takes you back to your high school prom and one that feels like home. We’ve all tracked our lives through music, even subconsciously. We’ve written our own soundtracks.

“Lesley always says that, no matter how different we are, no matter how much we disagree with each other, it’s hard to be mad when we’re singing together,” Whitford told The News.

“We need a lot more of that these days.”