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New Shows For Fall: CBS

September 12, 2010

The Paley Center for Media gave sneak peeks at several of the programs that will debut this season. (Keep in mind, the networks themselves selected the programs they wanted to showcase).

CBS is next and they selected to show their new courtroom drama “The Defenders” and two new sitcoms: “Mike & Molly” and “$#*! My Dad Says.”

“The Defenders” bears no relation to the 1961 television series of the same name. THESE defenders have set up shop in Las Vegas and their client base are typically showgirls, strippers and hos, who keep the waiting room of their practice a constant barrage of plumage and cleavage to rival the Fred Silverman era of broadcasting! In case any porn actresses want to make a crossover into “mainstream” TV, as Sasha Grey did with “Entourage,” a cameo here could be the way to go. Are you listening, Lawrence Fishburne’s daughter?

Our courtroom champs are played by James Belushi and Jerry O’Connell. They are assisted by a just out of law school attorney played by Jurnee Smollett, and they each have their own baggage: Smollett’s character is not only fresh from the Bar, she’s fresh from the pole, having been a former dancer in a Vegas strip club. Belushi is obsessed over his ex and has taken to putting her under surveillance to keep records, and O’Connell is simply sleeping with every other woman that visits Sin City.

The surprise is that Belushi gets to use a lot of his comic timing, and he drives this bus (and yeah, that’s a Ralph Kramden reference). His actions and reactions make this work and his attitude (especially when dealing with the Evil Prosecutors) for sure bring the laughs.

If you remember the CBS series “Shark” with James Woods, this is a somewhat softer and a whole lot sexier parallel and with Vegas as the backdrop, plenty of big name guest stars might just pop in for a quick hello, including right here in the pilot!

Next comes “Mike & Molly,” a situation comedy. When I heard that the names James Burrows and Chuck Lorre were associated with this show, I had pretty high hopes. The program stars Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy as the title characters… he a Chicago Police officer and she a grade school teacher who both happen to be what they call “morbidly obese.” They cross paths at an Overeater’s Anonymous meeting, it seems, to do stand-up comedy about their physical condition to an audience that knows and understands: The United States viewing public.

But Mike and Molly aren’t the only ones doing the fat jokes. Mike’s beat patrol partner (Reno Wilson) gets in on it a little too well. Molly’s mother (notably played by svelte Swoozie Kurtz) and her sister, even the clerk at the restaurant Mike eats at gets in some flab jabs. So, while I’m glad we have people of varying sizes in prime time on a show that isn’t called “The Biggest Loser,” I really have to wonder what sort of message this “comedy” is sending. I found a lot of the material uncomfortable at best, most especially a sight gag used in the midst of everything for no good purpose.

The closest parallel to “Mike & Molly” was another show back in the 1970s called “The Dumplings,” about a couple that ran a deli and also happened to be obese. That show featured a lot of insult humor directed at the couple, and that show produced just ten episodes. Don’t be surprised if “Mike & Molly” does no better.

Last but certainly not least is the return of William Shatner to episodic scripted television in the first ever TV show whose title the FCC won’t let you say on TV: “$#*! My Dad Says.” Based on the very popular twitter account http://twitter.com/shitmydadsays , Shatner turns shitner in this role where his inner censor takes a permanent vacation and blurts out anything he thinks about his family. He takes up the majority of the time, as well he should. There is also his son Henry, played by Jonathan Sadowski who creates the dramatic tension that Shatner’s barbs relieve. And also Mad TV’s Nicole Sullivan as wife to Henry’s half-brother played by Will Sasso for more target practice on this running commentary on the human condition.

But really, everyone else in the cast is there just as an excuse for Shatner’s character (sarcastically named Ed Goodson) to boldly go grousing and spewing. Thank goodness it’s not all Archie Bunker like venom, though, because nobody needs a sitcom that’s totally hateful. But when you pair this with “Mike & Molly,” maybe CBS is suggesting that a new era of insult humor has arrived?

At any rate, Shatner could never be completely detestable, and actually, at times, he’s quite likable in this first episode. So even though there’s room for improvement, there’s both hope and expectation for it as well.

Grades for the pilot episodes that CBS showed:

“The Defenders” B (mostly on the strength of Belushi’s mugging and reactions).

“Mike & Molly” D (I found this painful to watch in a lot of ways, though many people in the audience were laughing).

“$#*! My Dad Says” C (Shatner needs someone of his caliber to spar with to raise this grade higher).

Up Next: Fox

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2010 5:36 pm

    “Flab Jab” is the best phrase to describe what’s happening with this show. It sounds like a total train wreck. I was wondering how weight was going to be treated on the show and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that it has not been handled well. Even the most fat hating among the television viewing populace will probably tire of this fish-in-the-barrel style “comedy” shooting gallery.

    USA Today described the Shatner show as just about as unfunny as things get. I suspect with the right time slot, the show will run for at least five years. Heaven knows, CBS isn’t afraid to let unfunny shows run into perpetuity.

    I wonder why Hawaii 5-0 was not part of the preview. It’s got a lot of buzz and is overhyped. Of course USA Today said the lead is as stiff as Jack Lord’s hair, which is hilarious, accurate and is surprising coming from the world’s blandest news paper.

  2. September 12, 2010 5:47 pm

    I can’t get too excited about any of these shows, I guess. I didn’t realize Shit My Dad Says was starring Shatner, though, so I might give that a try since he’s always fun to watch. Mike & Molly just sounds depressing, but hopefully it won’t last long, as you said. Thanks for the previews!

  3. September 12, 2010 6:35 pm

    Wow… Jerry O’Connell’s still around?

    I don’t watch all that much on CBS (um…anything, really), so the only one I’d heard about what Shit My Dad Says, and that’s only because I love me some Shatner. I may give that a shot, if it doesn’t conflict with one of my other programs. Mike and Molly just.sounds.awful.

  4. September 12, 2010 7:21 pm

    I would watch a show where Shatner just reads poetry for twenty minutes. If SMDS doesn’t work out, someone should pitch that for him, just to keep him on TV.
    Great recap! And I bet you’re right about the rise of insult humor. Seems almost inevitable given how hostile culture has become.

  5. September 12, 2010 9:59 pm

    Oh man, thanks for watching Mike and Molly so other won’t have to!

    I wonder if @#$! my Dad Says will be the new Two and Half Men.

  6. evmaroon permalink
    September 12, 2010 11:07 pm

    @RaymondJ: Doesn’t it seem inevitable?

  7. September 15, 2010 1:35 am

    We were hoping to at least catch a glimpse of the “Hawaii Five-O” reboot (NBC showed some clips of the new Jimmy Smits courtroom drama “Outlaw,” in fact it felt like we watched the whole pilot!) but I guess they either really don’t like it themselves or maybe are tweaking some things. I was also curious about “Blue Bloods” which is the new Tom Selleck drama about a family of cops, but no sign of that one either.

    “Mike & Molly” got a lot of laughs from the audience, and maybe more than they gave to Shatner. I don’t know how that will translate into ratings when the show finally joins the schedule, but it might mean it’ll stay around… But really, insult humor is just so lame. It’s not believable (nobody except the most extreme Tourette’s cases – or Shatner’s character!) would blurt out these comments, so really they’re insulting the characters dealing with their weight issues and insulting the audience’s intelligence!

  8. September 15, 2010 2:14 am

    The intro is pretty sweet:

    I could watch that all day. I don’t even need to watch the show. It’s on CBS, so most likely I won’t.

  9. September 15, 2010 10:15 am

    Obviously, they had to keep the theme, it wouldn’t be “Hawaii Five-O” without it, but I find this cover severely lacking. I wanted the theme song to be at least as strong as the original, and this just seems “Five-O Lite” to me. I do like the nods to the original shots from the opening, but my question is why have it be Steve McGarrett and Chin Ho again? It should have been “H5-O: The Next Generation” and have these characters be new people, not living in the shadow of Jack Lord’s massive hair!

    Another network decision I was left out of… when will they learn?!

  10. September 15, 2010 10:26 am

    haha, it’s so true. why doesn’t anyone ask us these things?

    I think Hawaii 5-0 will be good man candy watching, between Daniel Dae Kim and Scott Caan (shut up). Plus, I’m always happy when Jean Smart has work!

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