The fall television season kicked off in earnest last night, and I both hate and love premiere week. There’s lots of new shows to sample, but in the Peak TV landscape, finding one you love is often a detriment (damnit! Now I have to watch more TV?!) Among the three new series I sampled last night, however, there’s little to worry about in that regard.
Young Sheldon — Man, I wanted to hate this show. I mean, I watched specifically so that I could hate review it, but Young Sheldon was not as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it bad — I’d just leave it at, “Not good.” Granted, the character of Young Sheldon is the worst part about this Big Bang Theory prequel (he’s an insufferable little shit), but the rest of the show is almost watchable. It’s single camera; there’s no laugh track; and it’s a fish-out-of-water comedy and a coming-of-age sitcom, both genres for which I am a sucker.
The action kicks us back to 9-year-old Sheldon (played by Iain Armitage, but voiced by Jim Parsons in the voice-over narration). He’s set to enter high school, which creates problems for his older brother (they will be in the same class), and his father, a gym teacher/rube who doesn’t understand his son. It’s a fairly predictable pilot episode, but I was surprised by how smitten I was with Zoe Perry, who plays Sheldon’s mom in the series. She, at least, shows a lot of compassion for her obnoxious son, while the father (Lance Barber) has the softness of a man who has been humbled by his kid.
It is not a good show by any stretch, and the pilot episode is the only episode I am likely ever to watch, but it’s not the heinous beast I had expected. I guess it proves that old adage: For every three terrible Chuck Lorre sitcoms, there’s a nearly tolerable one like Mom or Young Sheldon.
Me, Myself, and I — I gave this one a shot because I like Bobby Moynihan and I love John Larroquette, and the premise is, well, an iteration of This Is Us, but not without potential. It sees a character named Max at three stages in his life: A teenager struggling with a new school and a new step-family; an adult inventor trying to break a cold streak while dealing with his divorce (Alison Tolman shows up as his ex-wife); and a successful business man on the brink of retirement.
The pilot plays out in the predictably unpredictable manner we’ve gotten used to since the Modern Family pilot, but it’s sweet and occasionally funny, and I really like the characters (particularly Jaleel White, who plays adult Max’s best friend and Brian Unger, who plays Max’s step-father). It’s a CBS sitcom, so I am not that hopeful, but it could surprise like the first season of Life in Pieces. It’s a likable enough series to merit further sampling, particularly on a Monday when the DVR is not at full throttle. I want Moynihan to succeed and Larroquette — who has 7 Emmy noms and 5 wins — is one of the best in the business, and I like finding him on my TV again. I’m gonna give it a few weeks to see if it improves from decent to good.
The Good Doctor — Here’s my thing with procedurals — legal, medical, police, or otherwise: It has to be really enjoyable to watch, because there’s a lot of TV to wade through. A procedural is not a show that’s ever going to inspire a think piece, so it’s a wasted hour for me (and Lethal Weapon currently occupies that wasted hour slot in my life). The Good Doctor is not really good, but I can see why procedural fans might stick around. It’s comfort TV.
It stars Freddie Highmore as an autistic doctor with savant syndrome, meaning he can diagnose the shit out of a medical problem. The autism, however, creates personal challenges for both him and his colleagues.
There’s a certain medical MacGyver feel to the pilot episode, and it’s great to see Richard Schiff Toby Zieglering it up as the hospital’s president. The cast is likable (and who doesn’t want to see Antonia Thomas from Lovesick and The Misfits every week?) and the opening medical case is interesting enough, even if it does insist on featuring an emergency tracheotomy, which I am pretty sure appears in every pilot episode of a medical drama ever. But ultimately, it’s a procedural. It’s House M.D. with a sweet autistic kid instead of a grump, and that’s fine if you’re into that sort of thing. But I decidedly am not.
For the record, ratings for all three series were solid to great, but they also all had very favorable time slots. For those concerned about starting shows only to have them pulled away by the network gods, these three look poised for at least full seasons (the same cannot be said for NBC’s new procedural, The Brave, which premiered after The Voice and which I didn’t bother watching).
Review Briefs Day 1: 3 shows sampled, 22 weekly minutes added to the DVR (for now)