2019-20 TV season pilot watch, the rankings: CBS

Illustration of characters from CBS shows
Olivia Staser/Staff

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Ah, CBS, that one television network that runs on shows with acronyms for names. It is also the network that, powered by a slew of procedural dramas and Chuck Lorre programs, refuses to let the laugh track die. Out of the big four networks, CBS has an older core demographic, which is usually reflected in its lineup of cookie-cutter procedurals and old white male leads. With the majority of the network’s upcoming programs, however, featuring women and people of color in principal roles, CBS’s fall slate is looking to diversify. So here’s a look, from best to worst, of CBS’s upcoming shows.

1. “All Rise”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Simone Missick, Wilson Bethel, Jessica Camacho

Premiere date: Sept. 23

Tagline: “A drama that follows the dedicated, chaotic, hopeful, and sometimes absurd lives of judges, prosecutors, and public defenders as they work with bailiffs, clerks and cops to get justice for the people of Los Angeles amidst a flawed legal system.”

First impressions: The trailer for this Shonda Rhimes-esque dramedy really pushes its comedic aspect but also peppers in some cheesily fierce lines by Missick, making it hard to understand the tone of the show. Centered on Judge Lola Carmichael (Missick) as she assumes her new role in an LA court, “All Rise” is a fresh take on the normally lawyer-centric courtroom drama. There seems to be an odd combination of slapstick comedy (Missick’s character comically trips as she walks up to her seat) and political drama. But if the show can find its beat and doesn’t use an absurd amount of bathos, it looks like it will be engaging enough to capture the attention of fans of both comedy and drama.

Prediction: Renewed

2. “The Unicorn”

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Walton Goggins, Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins

Premiere date: Sept. 26

Tagline: “A tight-knit group of friends and family helps a widower (Goggins) move on following the most difficult year of his life, which includes being an ill-equipped but devoted single parent to his two daughters, and taking the major step of dating where, to his shock, he’s a hot commodity.”

First impressions: As long as people aren’t too put off by the name to watch it, “The Unicorn” looks like CBS’s best chance at a successful comedy this season. The network’s only new sitcom without a laugh track, “The Unicorn” has a boost right off the bat with television veteran Goggins as the lead. What may be CBS’s comedic answer to NBC’s “This Is Us” already has some great lines and some excellent comedic performances from Corddry in its trailer, making it a pretty good sell. 

Prediction: Renewed 

3. “Evil”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Katja Herbers, Mike Colter, Aasif Mandvi

Premiere date: Sept. 26

Tagline: “A psychological mystery that examines science vs. religion and the origins of evil. The series focuses on a skeptical female forensic psychologist (Herbers) who joins a priest-in-training (Colter) and a carpenter (Mandvi) to investigate and assess the Church’s backlog of supposed miracles, demonic possessions and unexplained phenomena.”

First impressions: From the creators of CBS legal darling “The Good Wife” and its spinoff “The Good Fight” comes a very high-concept show starring the artist formerly known as Luke Cage. This “Supernatural” meets “Law and Order” premise looks interesting enough for one season, but it is questionable what the show’s long-term approach will be. Will this ragtag team investigate a new case every episode? Will it pursue one case the whole season? As the premise wavers between episodic and serial, “Evil” may be a hit that quickly loses steam.

Prediction: Renewed — but only for a season

4. “Carol’s Second Act”

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Patricia Heaton, Kyle MacLachlan, Ashley Tisdale

Premiere date: Sept. 26

Tagline: “After raising her two children and retiring from teaching, Carol Chambers (Heaton) embarks on a unique second act: pursuing her dream of becoming a doctor.”

First impressions: Fresh off of ABC sitcom “The Middle,” Heaton has been a television staple since “Everybody Loves Raymond” in 1996. Now, with television veterans Heaton and MacLachlan together, this comedic version of “Grey’s Anatomy” has the star power to attract loyal viewers and build an early fan base. Out of the three live studio audience sitcoms, “Carol’s Second Act” has the best chance at renewal — especially given that, in casting Heaton alongside many younger cast members, the show looks to be aiming toward a wide age range of viewers.

Prediction: Renewed

5. “Tommy”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Edie Falco, Michael Chernus, Adelaide Clemens

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

Tagline: “When a former high-ranking NYPD officer (Falco) becomes the first female Chief of Police for Los Angeles, she uses her unflinching honesty and hardball tactics to navigate the social, political, and national security issues that converge with enforcing the law.”

 First impressions: With “Madam Secretary” in its final season this year, it seems that CBS is trying to find its next hit ‘“strong female lead in a leadership role” show in “All Rise” and “Tommy.” While the premise of “Tommy” appears to be a direct translation of “Madam Secretary” but in the police world, with a more diverse cast and (seemingly) better writing, “All Rise” is in a better position to be the show’s successor.

Prediction: Canceled

6. “Broke”

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Pauley Perrette, Jaime Camil, Natasha Leggero

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

Tagline: “When an outrageously wealthy trust fund baby (Camil) is cut off by his father, he and his wife (Leggero) move into her estranged sister’s (Perrette) Reseda home, forcing the two siblings to reconnect.”

First impressions: Perrette is back on CBS, this time playing what appears to be a toned down, primetime version of the mom from “SMILF.” While the tagline and title imply that the show’s focus will be on Javier (Camil) and his adjustment to his new economic status, the show’s trailer revolves around Perrette and her relationships with the main characters. Although headlined by a trio of recognizable television names, there seems to be a lack of chemistry within the cast from the trailer alone. It’s almost a shame that Camil’s charismatic screen presence will be wasted on this soon-to-be-forgotten show.

Prediction: Canceled

7. “Bob Hearts Abishola”

Genre: Comedy

Cast: Billy Gardell, Folake Olowofoyeku, Christine Ebersole

Premiere date: Sept. 23

Tagline: “After having a heart attack, a middle-aged sock businessman (Gardell) from Detroit unexpectedly falls for his cardiac nurse (Olowofoyeku), a Nigerian immigrant, and sets his sights on getting her to give him a chance.”

First impressions: From the creators behind CBS’s beloved “Big Bang Theory” and “Young Sheldon” comes yet another sitcom with forced jokes and easily tiring laugh tracks. It’s commendable that “Bob Hearts Abishola” has a female lead who’s not white. And while it looks like it may have some heartwarming moments, Lorre’s latest creation seems to have too little of a premise past a “will-they-won’t-they” couple and the seeming lack of the ensemble cast found in almost all successful sitcoms. A second season of this show is set to be a hard sell.

Prediction: Canceled

8. “FBI: Most Wanted”

Genre: Drama

Cast: Julian McMahon, Kellan Lutz, Alana de la Garza

Premiere date: Midseason replacement

Tagline: “A spinoff of FBI centered on the Fugitive Task Force of the FBI that tracks and captures the notorious criminals on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.”

First impressions: Police procedural dramas are CBS’s hydra — cut one off, and another one and its spinoff grow back. “FBI: Most Wanted” already has the advantage of having a backdoor pilot from its original show “FBI,” so high viewership for the initial few episodes is almost guaranteed. Because CBS is best known for its various branches-of-government shows, it is likely “FBI: Most Wanted” is already on the network’s renewal list — even “CSI: Cyber” got at least two seasons.

Prediction: Renewed

 

Julie Lim covers television. Contact her at [email protected].