CBS's fall 2017 schedule: A snap judgment

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You don’t judge books by their covers, you don’t judge movies by their trailers, and you don’t judge new TV shows by their upfront presentations. But if teasers are supposed to pique our curiosity, surely we can rate our excitement, yes? Here’s my take on the first looks at Fox’s new shows for next season, ranked in order of interest.

Young Sheldon

Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET between The Big Bang Theory and Mom

Premise: A sitcom focusing on the childhood of the math-and-science whiz played by Jim Parsons on The Big Bang Theory. Apparently, it wasn’t easy being a kid super-nerd in jocular, churchy East Texas, land of Friday Night Lights and Sunday morning worship, circa 1989 — and it wasn’t easy raising him. Parsons will narrate this remembrance. Iain Armitage plays Sheldon, and the rest of the cast includes Zoe Perry, Lance Barber, Raegan Revord, and Montana Jordan.
What intrigues me: This trailer took me by surprise, short-circuiting my resistance to it — my disinterest in The Big Bang Theory. Young Sheldon: The Kinda-Sorta Wonder Years clearly wants to be its own animal. I like the single-camera, no laugh-track filmmaking, as well as how the writing and acting goes for poignancy more than humor. Armitage gives hope for a quality kid performance, one that creates a real character, not trying to do an impression. The beats between Sheldon and his dad are genuinely touching, and the cultural conflicts — a young, science-based kid growing up in a religious subculture; the conflict of ethics vs. careerism — are timely and appear well-handled. Parson’s narration adds something to everything — the performances, the themes.
Why I’m skeptical: Armitage needs to be as good and the writing needs to be as brainy as they appear to be here to make me stick with it.

Star Trek: Discovery

CBS All Access (with a premiere on CBS)

Premise: Star Trek boldly goes where no Star Trek has gone before: a digital platform with a brand new series. Set 10 years before Kirk, Spock, and the crew of the Enterprise begin their five-year mission, Discovery departs from the tradition of putting the captain at the center of the storytelling by tracking the adventures of the namesake ship largely through the perspective of first officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green). The supporting cast includes Michelle Yeoh, Jason Isaacs, James Frain, and Doug Jones.
What intrigues me: The spectacular production values and a quality producing team: Bryan Fuller, Alex Kurtzman, Gretchen J. Berg, Aaron Harberts, and Akiva Goldsman. I’m curious to see the perspective they’ll bring to it and their strategy for relevance. The performances have power; hopefully the characters have depth.
Why I’m skeptical: As amazing as it looks, I still don’t have a grasp on what the show will be about week-to-week. Which just stokes my curiosity even more.

Wisdom of the Crowd

Sundays at 8 p.m. ET between 60 Minutes and Madam Secretary

Premise: Jeremy Piven plays a tech genius who invents a crowd-sourcing app, codenamed “Sophie,” to gather info from the World Wide Web of wired folks for the noble purpose of, yes, solving crimes — beginning with his daughter’s murder. “Sophie” means “wisdom,” in case you didn’t know. Title explained! Supporting cast includes Richard T. Jones as the designated detective character, plus Natalia Tena, Blake Lee, Jake Matthews, and Monica Potter.
What intrigues me: Piven, a potentially compelling mystery, the palpable belief in the dramatic possibilities of its premise. It has the potential to be a cut above the network’s typical tech-cop procedurals, something like a Black Mirror concept drawn out into a series.
Why I’m skeptical: Not sure if it has the interest or freedom to interrogate its premise the way Black Mirror does, like, say, the ethics of digital mob justice and the consequences of digital mob justice gone awry.

S.W.A.T.

Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET after Life in Pieces

Premise: The latest pop incarnation of the fabled high-action cop franchise stars Shemar Moore as Hondo, the sergeant of a specialized tactical unit in Los Angeles, where militarized policing is a loaded thing. Hondo has competing loyalties — he was a raised on the streets of L.A. — but the press release promises that he “has everything it takes to successfully bridge the divide between his two worlds.” Whew. Maybe he should run for president, then! Supporting cast includes Stephanie Sigman, Alex Russell, Jay Harrington, Lina Esco, Kenny Johnson, and Peter Onorati.
What intrigues me: Moore ripping into the leading man role with charisma blazing, helmer Justin Lin’s visceral action sequences, and the ambition to engage the moment with wish-fulfillment cop heroes, skilled, principled agents of justice with a social conscience who take responsibility for their mistakes.
Why I’m skeptical: Being too rah-rah earnest about that aforementioned ambition, the simplification of sociological issues, and characters that look pretty thin.

Me, Myself & I

Mondays at 9:30 p.m. ET between Kevin Can Wait and Scorpion

Premise: Saturday Night Live’s Bobby Moynihan breaks out of the fringe hours and gets a prime-time comedy franchise of his own, anchoring a high-concept series about key moments in one guy’s life. His character, Alex, is the network’s fave male archetype, the good-hearted, lovelorn nerd-inventor. Jack Dylan Grazer plays Alex at age 14 in 1991, John Laroquette plays Alex at age 65 in 2042, and Moynihan holds down Alex at 40 in the present. Supporting cast includes: Brian Unger, Jaleel White, Kelen Coleman, Skylar Gray, Christopher Paul Richards, Mandell Maughan, Reylynn Caster, and Sharon Lawrence.
What intrigues me: The concept and the cast.
Why I’m skeptical: Judging from the trailer, the dull writing and ideas. Do the writers have enough imagination for their own concept?

SEAL Team

Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET between Survivor and Criminal Minds

Premise: David Boreanaz (Bones) headlines a military drama tracking the lives an elite squad of Navy SEALs. Supporting cast includes Max Thieriot, Neil Brown Jr., A.J. Buckley, Toni Trucks, and Jessica Paré.
What intrigues me: An intense, flinty Boreanaz, tense action scenes, and production values.
Why I’m skeptical: The on-the-nose familiarity with History’s Six, including similar imagery, scenarios, characters, relationships, and clichés. There are differences (Paré’s intelligence operative), and SEAL Team could be altogether better than Six, but the trailer doesn’t do enough make me want to find out.

9JKL

Mondays at 8:30 p.m. between Kevin Can Wait and Me, Myself & I

Premise: Mark Feuerstein stars in a sitcom drawn from his own life. He plays Josh Roberts, an actor who relocates home to New York — a deluxe apartment building — in the aftermath of divorce and the cancellation of his show, Blind Cop. But he’s got his meddling parents living on one side of him and his competitive brother and his family on the other side. Supporting cast includes Linda Lavin, Elliott Gould, David Walton, Liza Lapira, and Matt Murray.
What intrigues me: Linda Lavin bringing spark to the cliché of the boundary-challenged mom who says outrageous things, often about her sons’ balls.
Why I’m skeptical: The ribald comedy tries too hard, the physical comedy looks dumb, and the other performances, while as energetic as Lavin, fail to elevate the material that isn’t worthy of them.

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