Monday night was the start of the new network primetime special, a tradition that seems rather quaint now that we’re officially in the age of streaming and binging. Still, this is the week that the five major U.S. broadcast television networks attempt to prove that they’re still relevant by trotting out their new shows. Despite the fact that none of these new shows sound that interesting, I’ve decided that I’m going to try to watch and review the first episode of each new series this season. Who knows? Maybe something will surprise me.
Tonight, I watched four network premieres.
Bob Hearts Abishola (CBS)
This is the latest sitcom from Chuck Lorre. Billy Gardell plays Bob, who owns a compression sock company in Detroit. After the stress of dealing with family and his company leads to him having a heart attack, he ends up in the hospital. He also ends up falling for Abishola (Folake Olowofoyeku), a Nigerian nurse who does’t seem like she wants anything to do with him. In the pilot, this led to Bob going to Abishola’s apartment and then back to the hospital, all so he could present her with the gift of socks.
Though the show is being advertised as being an unlikely love story and a look at the immigrant experience in 21st century America, the pilot mostly seemed to be obsessed with the idea that people saying “sock” is inherent funny. Hence, the entire pilot was basically: “Socks, socks, socks, socks, socks, socks, socks.” It got old rather quickly. In the end, you ended up feeling sorry for Abishola because Bob and his socks just wouldn’t go away.
Honestly, it would be nice if this was a better show because it has the potential to explore a lot of issues that are typically not explored on network television but in the end, the first episode just didn’t work for me.
All Rise (CBS)
Finally! A court show named after the most obnoxious part of any hearing. Seriously, there is nothing that annoys me more than the sound of a bailiff shouting, “ALL RISE!” When I hear that, I’m just like, “Why should I have to stand just because a judge is taking their time sitting down?”
Anyway, All Rise takes place in Los Angeles. It’s a show about a new judge (Simone Missick) and how she wastes taxpayer money by refusing to accept plea deals and forcing certain cases to go trial. Of course, there’s a handsome prosecutor with daddy issues (Wilson Bethel) and an idealistic public defender (Jessica Camacho) and an upstanding bailiff (J. Alex Brinson) who gets to say, “All rise!” There’s also an older judge (Marg Helgenberger) and a no-nonsense judicial assistant (Ruthie Ann Miles) and I assume there will be a weekly collection of quirky defendants.
The pilot for All Rise was predictable but occasionally compelling. Simone Missick was likable in the lead role and both Wilson Bethel and Jessica Camacho did a good job of finding some nuance with their otherwise stereotypical roles. (Wilson Bethel especially did a good job.) The writing was a bit heavy-handed and, considering that next week’s episode is called Long Day’s Journey Into ICE, that doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. All Rise is a show that tries to be political but deep down, what the show really wants to be is a legal soap opera. If it tones down the politics and embraces the melodrama, All Rise could be a guilty pleasure.
Bluff City Law (NBC)
The night’s second legal premiere, Bluff City Law is about an activist attorney (Jimmy Smits) and his estranged daughter (Caitlin McGee). McGee abandons her corporate law job so that she can work with her father. The pilot featured a court case and it had a happy ending but I kept getting distracted by Jimmy Smits’s hair, which was dyed jet black and may have been a toupee. Hopefully, this will be addressed in a future episode. I was also distracted by Smits’s laughable attempt to do a Southern accent. Bluff City Law is taking place in Memphis, which means that everyone listens to the blues after court.
Anyway, Bluff City Law was definitely the worst of Monday’s new shows, full of heavy-handed dialogue and sermonizing. When we first meet Smits’s character, he’s making his ex-wife’s funeral all about himself and that pretty much set the tone for the entire show.
Judging from the pilot, Bluff City Law is one of those shows that’s so full of self-righteous fury that it’ll probably make you root for the evil, faceless corporations that are being sued. GO BIG EVIL CORP!
(Also is Memphis known as Bluff City? If so, that’s the worst nickname I’ve ever head.)
Prodigal Son (Fox)
Fresh from The Walking Dead, where he played the the least interesting person to ever be named Jesus, Tom Payne starts as Malcolm Bright. Malcolm is a criminal profiler whose father was the notorious serial killer known as The Surgeon (Michael Sheen). The Surgeon is locked up now, presumably for the crime of having a really boring nickname.
As for Malcolm, having been kicked out of the FBI, he now works with the NYPD and uses his father’s expertise to track down other serial killers. Despite Malcolm’s desire to be free from his father, his job makes that impossible. In other words, Malcolm is tortured hero and that means that the pilot has a lot of earth tones and angsty drama.
Prodigal Son has potential, largely due to the fact that Michael Sheen is obviously having a ball playing the Surgeon. My fear, based on the first episode, is that the show is going to become just another police procedural with a haunted protagonist. I am so sick of tortured protagonists and how they’re always standing around looking depressed about everything. Hopefully, the show will fully embrace the absurdity of its concept and go totally over the top with it. In short, less police work and more Michael Sheen.
Out of the four new shows that I watched tonight …. well, I can’t say that I’ll be setting the DVR for any of them. Prodigal Son is elevated by Michael Sheen but it still feels too much like a rip-off of Dexter, Hannibal, and Criminal Minds for me to get too excited about it. All Rise might be fun if it can avoid being preachy. Bob Hearts Abishola probably won’t get any better than it was tonight but it might survive for a season or two just because it’s a Monday show and no one expects much from Monday. As for Bluff City Law …. seriously, what is up with Jimmy Smits’s hair?