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New TV shows to try this fall

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Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2019 10:30 am

In a world where there are more home entertainment options than ever, there is still something special about the coming of fall when the various television networks introduce their lineup of new programs. Here is a look at what they have in store for us.

CBS

CBS has long been the most-watched television network and that didn’t change in spite of the well-publicized brouhaha a year ago when its charismatic CEO, Les Moonves, was removed in a MeToo scandal.

It has been almost 50 years since moviegoers were scared witless by “The Exorcist” and the devil is back with a vengeance. This time he is taking on the Big Apple and some tough detectives from the NYPD in “EVIL.” Katja Herbers, Mike Cotler, Aasif Mandvi and Michael Emerson are the leads.

“All Rise” is a look at the criminal justice system in Los Angeles and it stars Simone Missick as a judge who knows when to be tough and when to be tender.

The Tiffany Network has long been home to adult comedies and that’s certainly the case this season.

Patricia Heaton, who starred in both “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The Middle,” returns as a 50- year-old medical school graduate working in a hospital in “Carol’s Second Chance.” Kyle MacLachlan co-stars as a curmudgeonly mentor.

Baby boomers will fondly remember “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” that starred Bill Bixby as a young widower with a son. “The Unicorn” has Walton Goggins in the Bixby role with three daughters. It’s lighter in tone than “Courtship” as it centers around the lead character’s reluctance to get back into the dating scene and the humorous encouragement of his three friends’ (comic vets Michaela Watkins, Rob Corddry and Omar Miller) to get him to start living his life again.

The CBS show that will generate the most buzz and scrutiny will be the latest offering from comedy producer extraordinaire Chuck Lorre (“Two And A Half Men,” “Mom,” “Mike & Molly,” “How I Met Your Mother” and “The Big Bang Theory”) titled “Bob Hearts Abishola,” starring Billy Gardell (the Mike of “Mike & Molly’) and Nigerian actress Folake Olowofoyeku. While the pilot portended an unlikely romance between the two lead characters, it is a risky proposition because “Bob Hearts Abishola” is not a chuckle-a-minute proposition for which the Lorre brand is renowned. This is more Norman Lear than Chuck Lorre.

Lorre told journalists at the 2019 Television Critics Association Summer Tour at the Beverly Hilton last month that he is more interested in discussing the contributions of immigrants to the USA. Lorre noted that nearly every one of us descended from immigrants and that he is disgusted with President Trump’s nasty tone towards them. “Immigrants make America great” is what he told the press and he handed out yellow “IMAG” hats as a way of sticking it to Trump.

NBC

The Peacock Network has recovered its ratings mojo thanks to the success of such dramas as “This Is Us” and the Manhattan-based hospital drama, “New Amsterdam.”

NBC is turning to an old friend, Jimmy Smits, who appeared in “LA Law” from 1986 to 1994, to return to his legal acting roots with a change in locale to Memphis in the deliberately similar sounding “Bluff City Law.” Smits’ character has a deep Tennessee drawl while his daughter in the family law firm played by Caitlin McGee has no distinguishable accent. The show’s producers promise that unlike Perry Mason, Smits’ team will not always prevail victorious in court.

Queens has long been the setting for situation comedies, as exemplified by “All In The Family,” The King Of Queens,” “The Nanny” and “Dear John.” We can now add “Sunnyside,” starring Kal Penn, to that list.

Penn plays a former City Council member who loses his job because of a drunken rage-filled night that is caught on camera. With no other discernable skills, he becomes a tutor to a cast of neighborhood characters who are seeking to become US citizens.

Executive producers Matt Murray and Michael Schur claim that the political fall from grace story angle was based on Anthony Weiner but without “the creepy stuff,” in their words. Penn said that he had spoken with Sunnyside City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and that he spent a lot of time in the neighborhood even though the show is being shot in LA.

It’s hard to not to root for “Sunnyside,” which not only seems funny but whose slogan is “Welcome to Queens. Home of the American dream.”

Another comedy, “Perfect Harmony,” which stars Bradley Whitford as a depressed college music professor who takes the reins of a vocally challenged church choir doesn’t appear to be worth the time investment.

ABC

Colbie Smulders, who was one of the engaging stars of the aforementioned hit comedy “How I Met Your Mother,” is starring in a new show that is a 180-degree turn from her signature role as news anchor Robin Scherbatsky. This time she plays a former Marine who is now a hard-boiled Portland, Ore. private investigator. Think of a female version of Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty” Harry Callahan or Stacy Keach’s Mike Hammer from that 1980s CBS series based on the novels of the late Mickey Spillane. This one looks like fun.

The same can be said for a prequel to ABC’s hit series “black-ish” called “mixed-ish,” which stars Mark-Paul Gosselaaer, Gary Cole and Tika Sumpter. The show is set in 1985 and it appears that the producers are taking this period piece seriously judging from the news headlines and great ’80s tunes that filled the pilot episode.

Tiffany Haddish, who has had tremendous success as a standup comedienne and actress, now tackles a new role — being the 2019 version of the late Art Linkletter — as she will be hosting a new Sunday night family show, a revival of “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” which is slated to air Sunday nights. Haddish is likely to become as ubiquitous as Steve Harvey and Ryan Seacrest.

FOX

The “new” Fox Broadcasting Corporation no longer has the assets of 20th Century-Fox behind it as its parent company, News Corporation, sold the legendary studio and other assets to Disney for $71 billion.

Fox still has attitude, however, as it will be debuting what may be the season’s most controversial program, “Almost Family,” which centers around a fertility doctor, Leon Beckley (Timothy Hutton), who used his own sperm in the early 1990s (well before DNA testing become commonplace and inexpensive) on donor eggs. Brittany Snow plays his daughter Julia, who is shocked to discover that she has plenty of new half-siblings.

“Prodical Son” owes a great debt to the 1990 film “Silence of the Lambs.” A psychologist played by Tom Payne is forced to team up with his brilliant father and incarcerated serial killer (veteran British actor Michael Sheen), who is serving a life sentence, in order to help the NYPD solve murders.

Two TV vets, Kim Cattrall and Gerald McRaney, star in “Filthy Rich,” which looks at the sordid life of a televangelist who has established a billion dollar empire and isn’t quite a man of the cloth when away from his television pulpit.

Fox is also introducing two new Sunday night animated comedies, “Bless the Harts” and “Duncanville,” with Ike Barinholtz and Amy Poehler providing the lead character voices in the respective series.

There is no word yet as to whether the “BH 90210,” which stars the original cast members of the iconic “Beverly Hills 90210” playing exaggerated versions of their real lives and spoofing both the show and their tabloid images, will return later this year after garnering a lot of attention this summer.

CW

“We know who we are!” said CW Television president Mark Pedowitz at the 2019 Television Critics Association Summer Tour. He’s absolutely right and that is a key reason why he is the longest tenured broadcast network president. Pedowitz has long made the CW a destination for teens and young adults and that tradition continues this fall.

Every TV generation deserves its own “Nancy Drew” series and this year the CW will launch “Nancy Drew” with Kennedy McMann playing the iconic teen detective who solves mysteries. Based on the clip that I saw, the mysteries are far darker and more R-rated than anything Pamela Sue Martin had to deal with in the 1970s on ABC.

The CW has had tremendous success with “Riverdale” so it is turning to a somewhat lesser known member of the Archie Comics series, Katy Keene. Lucy Hale plays the aspiring fashion designer who moves to New York and quickly acquires a group of offbeat friends. “Katy Keene” will be shot in New York and the showrunners promise that unlike a past CW hit, “Gossip Girl,” Queens will be featured in the show.

DC Comics has long been a staple of CW programming. While “Arrow” is finishing up its run this year, a new twist on the Caped Crusader, “Batwoman,” is debuting. Executive producer Caroline Dries sternly told me that Batwoman is a totally different character from Batgirl. Baby boomers will fondly remember the late Yvonne Craig in that role on the delightfully campy “Batman” series that starred Adam West in the last 1960s.

Australian actress Ruby Rose is the woman behind the cowl in “Batwoman.” Her character is supposed to be both Jewish and a lesbian. The CW is certainly inclusionary!

Cable and streaming

FX has moved from Fox to Disney as part of that big 2018 Hollywood business transaction. That may be a key reason why the basic cable network which most closely resembles premium cable networks such as HBO, Showtime and Epix, is only launching one new series, “Breeders.” The program stars Martin Freeman and Daisy Haggard as stressed parents who deal with the joys and the many aggravations of parenting young kids. “Breeders” is already popular in Great Britain where it’s taped.

“Pose,” “Mayans M.C.,” “Mr. Inbetween” and “Snowfall” are all coming back for another season on FX.

If the aforementioned English actress Daisy Haggard doesn’t become a household name in the US this year it won’t be for lack of trying. She is doing TV double duty as she plays a woman who returns to her hometown after spending 20 years in prison on a murder charge in Showtime’s “Back To Life.”

Another new Showtime series is “Work in Progress,” starring newcomer Abby McEnaney as a wry Chicago millennial whose humor is reminiscent of that of deadpan comic Steven Wright.

Showtime’s big fall entry is “On Becoming a God in Central Florida,” which stars Kirsten Dunst in a ’90s period satire of network marketing businesses. Any similarities to Amway and the DeVos family are not coincidental.

Pop TV is also saluting the Sunshine State with a millennial comedy, “Florida Girls.” It will also be bringing back the revival of Norman Lear’s “One Day at a Time” which was canceled after three seasons by Netflix. And yes, Emmy-nominated “Schitt’s Creek” will be returning.

Happy viewing!

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