Press Start Reviews: Upfronts 2018 – CBS

I’m going to be honest; CBS and I have always had sort of a fraught relationship. I do like some of their TV, but I really hate most of it. Most of the time their shows are base, they appeal to the lowest common denominator, and I definitely don’t fall within their target audience. But every so often, they really surprise me. The best world I can use to describe the new mystery drama, Instinct, is “a delight.” And this is a show specifically about trying to catch horrible murderers. But really, every Sunday I can’t wait to watch because Alan Cummings is…well he’s freakin’ delightful. He’s Alan goddamn Cummings, he was delightful as Nightcrawler for god’s sake.

You could just gobble. Him. UP.

But it also gave us an estimated fifty thousand seasons of Big Bang Theory. Experts are still trying to get an accurate count. When Young Sheldon got picked up for a new season there was an audible wailing coming from the lab. Here’s something important to remember: BBT is not a good show. I’m sorry, but I’ll die on this hill.

But going through their stable for this year, I’m honestly shocked. They have six trailers, and I’m moderately interested in three of them? But the other three just… ugh. That dichotomy is pure CBS to me. So let’s get down to it.

Magnum P.I.

There was a whirlwind of feelings with this show. First “why did they remake this??” then “Holy crap this looks amazing!” after that “Oh god Macguyver looks awesome too…” Hey, I have a rich and complex emotional landscape.

They’ve done MacGuyver, Hawaii Five-O, and now this… and it feels like a normal CBS action/adventure show – but with a really good effects budget? The cast feels good, if not a bit clunky. They’ve got some kinks to work out – all the guys are supposed to be old friends, but they feel like people who just work together. The dialogue just seems off I guess? Stilted. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here for the sweet cars Hawaiian shirts and explosions! And it delivers. Honestly the action in this show isn’t at the level of a high quality show like The Blacklist, but it’s really fun to watch.

And hey Hulk from The Wire is there!

Honestly this show could go either way. I was burned by MacGuyver, another remake of a classic show, but hope springs eternal I guess. Magnum is played by a brown guy, which is great, and they even make a joke about it. I just really hope this works out, because I’m all in for this craziness. Maybe it’ll be CBS’ answer to Lethal Weapon?

Coming fall, Mondays at 10pm.

God Friended Me

I really have no words for this. This is just… I don’t…

What is even going on here? Why is this show existing? Do we really need Touched by an Angel revamped for 2018?

Our premise is a guy that runs a podcast where apparently he just talks about how God doesn’t exist. He has guests who believe in God but then just talks at them about how they’re wrong. I mean I’m not getting into theological stuff here, I’m just saying it’s a weird way to run a show I guess.

So dude is walking down the street and he gets a friend request on Facebook. From an account that’s just named “God.” He thinks it’s a joke, ignores it, and then gets another request. Then the account suggests that he friends someone else – he looks up and sees this guy, follows him, and saves his life. At this point we’re basically told that whoever or whatever is running this God Facebook account is trying to connect him with people who need help or guidance, and in time he will learn about himself and maybe rekindle his faith.

So let’s pause here and think about something: They aren’t using some sort of stand in for Facebook. They are literally using Facebook, the actual website, as the base of their show. This stands out because it just says to me “Facebook wanted a show about Facebook, and CBS was all about it so they made it.” This show is basically PR for FB… good PR that it desperately needs, but still. And I doubt they’ll have an episode about privacy rights or commoditizing user data.

This show is pure CBS. Its sickly sweet, earnest, and there isn’t a drop of irony anywhere near this production. They really try and sell it. I just… it really just floors me. And it’ll probably take off for some reason that escapes me.

Inexplicably starting this fall, Sundays (OF COURSE) at 8pm.

The Neighborhood

CBS… you’re trying to break me aren’t you. This is a plan to just drive me to the brink of sanity, but you’re trying to decide if you want to push me off the cliff, or let me wallow in the suspense like some horrifying purgatory. Aren’t you. Aren’t you.

The Neighborhood is a three cam sitcom starring Cedric the Entertainer who probably shopped this to Fox first, but they had sense. The premise? It’s set in a historically black neighborhood, and a white family moves in next door. Hilarity ensues.

No I’m serious, that’s pretty much it. An overly friendly, “normal,” white family from the Midwest has moved in to the house next door to the patriarch of a family that has lived in this southern Californian neighborhood. They want to be friends with the guy, Cedric, but he is not happy about white people encroaching on his domain. You know what the kicker is? They’re clearly trying to do a show about learning to respect people of different races and backgrounds, and it looks like it stars a black man, but by the end of the trailer it feels like it’s going to be all about the white family learning how to integrate into a black enclave.

Ok, so first off this is a good example of the beginning of gentrification, plain and simple. Second, I’m getting the feeling that like there’s going to be a lot of “teaching” and “learning” here on all sides, which doesn’t sit well with me. And third, there’s a gay panic joke at the end which I really don’t appreciate. Its 2018, jokes about seeing another guy’s meat while barbequing isn’t funny, it’s just weird and cringy.

Clearly I’m a hard pass on this. But I can’t be surprised, this is exactly what CBS is known for in its sitcoms. Bad jokes and situations that would just be awkward if it weren’t for the laugh track. Cedric… c’mon man, you can do better than this.

Unfortunately coming Fall, Mondays at 8pm.

Happy Together

Another “fish out of water” scenario. This time it’s a superstar actor/singer guy who is trying to hide form the paparazzi at his accountant’s house. White star, black family, but instead of leaning into the race disparities, this is about the famous and the normal mixing together. This is better than The Neighborhood, but that’s kind of a low bar to me.

It’s nice to see just a weird ass premise that doesn’t force a lesson on the audience, the writing is better than your average CBS fare… this could have been on NBC. I would put money that this wasn’t developed completely in house, and CBS got the rights to produce. Cause if you put me in a room and said it’s this or big bang theory I’d go for this a thousand percent.

However – it’s lame. Its soft, its tame, its expected. Its fluff. I love comfort TV as much as the next guy, but this isn’t like a dish of ice cream. This is just a dish of marshmallow fluff and nothing else. Many people would say they like that, and that’s fine. But I think the bulk of people would say “is that all?” So yeah that’s what I say. Is that all? I think it is.

Fall, Tuesdays at 9pm.


OK HERE we go. CBS actually does action/mystery pretty well if it tries, and this looks pretty good. The premise is simple: follow the exploits of FBI agents trying to stop attacks and what not in NYC. As I’ve said before, this year is a lot of RAH RAH UNIFORMS. Which in itself isn’t terrible, and that falls in line with this channel. They do a lot of police and military stuff.

The action is good, the explosions look good, but the acting is stiff, and the color pallet looks like they looked at Batman v Superman and thought “yeah we need something like that!” Kind of washed out and grey?

I do like that the first plot is stopping an Alt-Right dude from setting off bombs to try and start a race war. The guy who plays the Nazi/White-Nationalist is very good at being creepy. But really there are two things I was thinking about throughout this very serious trailer: First, Wonderwall? You’re gonna have Wonderwall as your trailer music? And it’s a very serious cover too – all slow and dramatic. Ok guys.

Second… I want this show to take a hard left and go into hard sci-fi. This is a very serious show and then out of nowhere ALIENS. And I want them to play it like any other show about grizzled agents would. The same tone, no one bats and eye, because this sort of thing has been happening since the ‘50s and it’s just day to day business booking some guy with three eyes.

It’s a wish I hold deep in my heart, and I will never let it go. It’s definitely on my watch list, if only because I want to see if the writers get bored and introduce ghosts or something.

Fall, Thursdays at 9:30. Wait, there’s a drama starting at the bottom of the hour? Ok guys. Sure, why not.

Murphy Brown (2018) 

So with CBS renewing Rosanne for what I assume is an additional infinite seasons, other studios have followed suit. Lots of three cam sitcoms, shows that dip their toes into political and societal controversy. The thing is Murphy Brown was right there with Rosanne back in the day pissing off the general public with TV that had an opinion, a world view, and gave no **** about what anyone thought. They were smart, funny, and intriguing. They brought you into their world, and the good ones treated you like a guest… never talking down, never forcing an issue. The political themes were a natural inclination of that show’s characters and that show’s form of reality. Rosanne has come back with the same tone as before, but more timid. They tried to do a big splash with the first episode, but they pull back in some places, or are just… well terrible in what they are trying to inject into the comedy.

I’m hoping, praying, pleading, that Murphy Brown is going to go back to its roots – a brash comedy about a strong woman trying to kick the ass of the world and drag it into some sort of place of decency or at least…I don’t know some world where I don’t feel regret and annoyance when I read the news. If you were a fan of the show back in the day (like me) then you know what I’m talking about.

They got most of the original main cast back, Candice Bergman feels like she just stepped back into the role like she was just on an extended vacation. Honestly they all feel like that – after 247 episodes over a ten year run I guess the character just becomes a part of you. They are all on point, the timing is great… I really can’t wait. And they are really leaning into the progressive ideas and themes that made the show the enemy of an actual vice president.

The president is not going to be calling Candice Bergman after the show to congratulate her. We are hopefully seeing the birth of the anti-Rosanne and I couldn’t be happier. Here’s to hoping they pull it off.

Fall, Thursdays at 9:30pm.

And that’s that for CBS! Thank god! Surprisingly, I am at least interested in three out of six shows. It’s just that the three I didn’t like seem like they would kill me outright with sheer stupidity. Yeah I said it. But seriously, if anyone who is making FBI is reading this I want a tentacle monster in the background of a really dramatic and heartbreaking scene without anyone acknowledging it. I have a five spot in it for you… Just saying.

Click any of the links below to go to one of my other Upfronts reviews, and remember to share and follow me on all the socials!

Upfronts 2018 – NBC

Upfronts 2018 – ABC

Upfronts 2018 – FOX

Upfronts 2018 – Other

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