All in all, there actually aren’t as many new shows this fall as you might expect. Networks seem to be playing it a little bit cooler with the cancellation trigger (or at least trying to) and a startling number of shows making their season debuts this month already have at least a year of existence under their belt.
Three of the four major networks only have one new half-hour this fall, and that’s only if you count the stunt NBC is pulling as “new”. FOX is scaling back on comedy with only four live-action half-hours on their entire schedule and reigning comedy champ ABC is holding steady with seven established diverse family hits and one likeable new addition. CBS is making the most moves with three new series they’re pushing pretty hard and a big gap in their schedule where 2 Broke Girls outlived its welcome for 6 years.
Here’s how the new shows look thus far:
Young Sheldon (CBS)
The pilot episode of this inevitable Big Bang spinoff premiered on Sept 25th but we won’t get another instalment until November. Though the slightly hokey, not-super-sophisticated DNA of its mothershow is most definitely there, Young Sheldon‘s single-camera-ness gives it a contemporary punch that is mostly lacking on the network in its post-HIMYM iteration. Raegan Revord is genuinely hilarious as Sheldon’s twin sister and Zoe Perry is a miracle of warmth and wit in a performance that plays on but doesn’t quite mimic that of her real-life mother as the same character in present day on Big Bang. The relationship between young Sheldon and his mom is what really works about the spinoff. The narration and school-set stories are rocky because they try too hard to take the audience inside a mind that really shouldn’t be comprehensible to us but Mary Cooper takes us inside Sheldon’s heart and there’s lots of interesting unexplored material there. There’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to like Young Sheldon– its existence feels unoriginal and dully corporate- but there’s a bigger part of me that cried when that genius little kid said he might not believe in god but he “believes in mom”.
Me, Myself & I (CBS)
I don’t really understand the premise of this single-camera, multi-timeline show. The gimmick feels limiting- how are we supposed to invest in either of the younger storylines when the older one tells us how everything turns out? So Young Alex (Jack Dylan Grazer) is an aspiring inventor, and Medium Alex (Bobby Moynihan) is a struggling inventor, cool, but where are the stakes when we know Old Alex (John Larroquette) to be a billionaire businessman/inventor? Why should we care about any love interest Medium Alex has when we know he ends up single at 65 and still smitten over the girl we have to watch Young Alex pine over despite knowing that he won’t get to kiss her for another 4 decades? None of it makes any sense. On the other hand, the Me, Myself & I team got their casting exactly right and that might just be enough to make me keep watching despite the stakes-erasing premise. All three Alexes are delightful, though not necessarily recognizable as the same character. Grazer is wonderfully frank and refreshingly confident as a 14-year-old dealing with a new school but keeping his head firmly on his shoulders when it comes to said school’s absurd values and social norms. Larroquette is a sweet, privileged almost past the point of naiveté, romantic ready to chase his bliss after retiring from the lucrative inventing business. Moynihan as the present-day 40-year-old version of Alex doesn’t have many defining qualities other than a derivative love of waffles but it’s pretty hard to go wrong with Moynihan, easily one of the most likeable performers on the planet. I’ve always been fond of Kelen Coleman (the grownup version of Alex’s daughter) and the great surprises of the series for me thus far have been Christopher Paul Richards and Brian Unger who play Alex’s stepbrother and stepfather with well-meaning kindness that is a long-overdue representation of positive blended family dynamics. Oh, and his best friend is Urkel (played by the one and only Jaleel White as a pretty smooth adult with a nerdy backstory, natch). I’m sticking with Me, Myself & I but I want my reservations on the record that it doesn’t make any sense.
I’ve liked Mark Feuerstein since he starred in a weird quickly cancelled early oughts sitcom Good Morning Miami (he’s also great on The West Wing). I love Liza Lapira from her work on Super Fun Night and David Walton from his work on mostly About a Boy but really the many many many either hit shows where he’s had small guest starring roles or total flubs where he was the star. Elliott Gould is Elliott freaking Gould. But their show (about a family who live in neighbouring apartments) is stupid. Its rhythms are as stale as CBS at its very worst (shout out to Man with a Plan). I’ll watch pretty much any sitcom but I may end up drawing the line here.
Now this is actually pretty good. Adam Scott and Craig Robinson are as dependable of comic leads as any series could hope for and the X-Files-but-funny premise is incredibly rich storytelling ground. The knocked-off-their-pedestals characters have backstories that will easily drive the first season but, beyond that, there’s almost no end to how long this could run (no end other than the fact that the leads are pretty decently famous already so who knows how much of their lives they want to give to FOX). Amber Stevens West is already ten times more likeable as the Q figure of “The Bureau Underground” than she was as on The Carmichael Show and there’s mysterious chemistry between Adam Scott and Bureau Captain Ally Walker that I definitely want investigated but ideally in a long-con slow-burn kind of way, complicated by the pilot-ending double-cross twist about Adam Scott’s wife that I actually didn’t see coming. Creator Tom Gormican has only one other writing credit to his name but it’s That Awkward Moment– a poorly marketed and thus poorly attended and vastly underrated male-voice rom-com that I absolutely love to pieces- so I have full faith in him. It needs a bigger cast of strong supporting characters but I think this show has Brooklyn Nine-Nine growth potential; it’s where I’m putting my money this season.
The Mayor (ABC)
Lea Michele shouldn’t do comedy. Her area of expertise is really singing, crying, and sing-crying; delivering a quickfire comic monologue or well-time banter is really not for her. Luckily for The Mayor, Michele is alone in her mediocrity, surrounded by a super shiny cast in possession of some epic charm. Brandon Micheal Hall is likely to be the breakout network star of the year as Courtney Rose, a dumbass kid who runs for mayor to get publicity for his rap career and accidentally wins. It’s hard to say whether this ridiculous premise is meant to lambast the shallow, vulnerable dummies who were real-life duped into voting for an unqualified showman or suggest that there may actually be real-world value in the idea of a political outsider suddenly working from the inside (as long as it’s the right outsider). Either way, it really only works because Hall is a powerhouse of charisma who could probably talk the average person into voting for literally anyone. The show is run by Jeremy Bronson (The Mindy Project, Speechless) whose resume I trust even if his pilot script didn’t sweep me off my feet. The more interesting producer credit is Daveed Diggs (aka the one Hamilton OBC member who will never be adequately replaced) who will appear as a guest star and write original music for the show. Knowing that Courtney’s raps will actually be good makes me feel like this show is really going to work and probably get better as it goes along; it has a protagonist who doesn’t just have a goofy goal that makes for a gimmicky premise, he’s actually got something to say. Maybe the show does too. It’s the minimum deposit casino of sitcoms this year- definitely an investment but hopefully one that pays off.
Will & Grace (NBC)
Another writer will likely cover this in more detail in the coming days so for now let’s just put it this way: I’m annoyed that creators would rather dredge up old properties to pander to nostalgic millennials than make new work. I think Will & Grace is a product of its time and we should be a bit beyond its simplistic portrayals of homosexuality by now. It drives me nuts that we’re pretending that the ending never happened and a finale I remember crying many tears over is being swept aside to place the characters back where they started. All that said, seeing them again, I remembered that I like these people (none of whom have aged a day) and will gladly waste my time with them.