Our resident script reader Jean-Maxime Renault has read the scripts for each of the six comedies CBS has picked up to pilot this development season. So, which does he think are most likely to get ordered to series? Read on...
With ratings leader The Big Bang Theory ending its run later this spring, this development season is crucial for CBS. Granted, the franchise will remain a part of the Eye Network's schedule thanks to Young Sheldon, and they can still count on Mom to deliver strong numbers, but the loss of Big Bang still leaves a gaping hole in the network's comedy slate.
This year's new entry The Neighborhood did a tad better than expected, but calling it a hit would be very generous. Other new comedies didn't gain much traction, including the Murphy Brown revival, Nina Dobrev's Fam, and Damon Wayans Jr.'s Happy Together. Then there are last year's two pity renewals, which are both still trying to survive: fully-owned Man With The Plan and the now Disney-owned Life In Pieces. If the Matt LeBlanc-starrer still has a chance, the family oriented single-cam series seems all but dead with a late spring/summer run. That leaves CBS with only one single-cam: Young Sheldon. And while they seem poised to take out their checkbook to lure at least one big comedy star next season, only time will tell if that translates into big ratings.
1. CAROL'S SECOND CHANCE (CBS Television Studios)
After raising two children and retiring from teaching, Carol Chambers (Patricia Heaton) embarks on a unique second act: she’s becoming a doctor.
What you think you'll get is exactly what you get with Carol's Second Chance. It's funny and comfy, and a little different since it's set in a hospital (there hasn't been a comedy series since Scrubs that's got that right). Patricia Heaton is playing a similar mother character to the ones we loved in Everybody Loves Raymond and The Middle; she's just a little older and ready to go back to work. Every scene takes place at the hospital, by the way, but medical cases are not at the center. This is first and foremost a workplace comedy, with Heaton's character adjusting to life surrounded by young people... and Kyle MacLachlan (!). I don't know how CBS convinced MacLachlan to sign up for this, but I'm sure he'll be great. There's no way this pilot doesn't get picked up. I see it paired with Mom, or sandwiched between Young Sheldon & Mom. No other project has the strength of this one.
2. OUR HOUSE (Sony Pictures Television & CBS Television Studios)
A devoted mother and father (Katherine Heigl & Malcolm Barrett) are committed to raising their children with the love and support the mom never got as a kid, but they soon discover how difficult that is with her parents (Nancy Lenehan & Phil Hendrie) and siblings back in the picture.
So now Katherine "movie star" Heigl is doing comedy -- multicamera comedy, no less. After two drama flops and a short stint on Suits, perhaps it was the only way to go. But while it remains to be seen whether audiences take to her her in this role, I have a hunch that she may have finally found the right fit. The pilot script is good -- not incredibly original, but it does have heart. The "house" in the title really is the heart of the show and I found that refreshing. The pairing of Heigl and Malcolm Barrett seems odd on paper but here's guessing they didn't put them together for no reason. There must be chemistry. To my own surprise, Our House is a project I'm betting on.
3. THE UNICORN (CBS Television Studios)
A widower (Walton Goggins) is eager to move on from the most difficult year of his life, only to realize he’s totally unprepared to raise his two daughters on his own and equally unprepared for the dating world, where -- to his shock -- he’s suddenly a hot commodity.
The fact that this is the only straight single-cam CBS has in its roster may help its chances. NBC also has a show based on a widower's experience (The Kenan Show), but this one feels less manipulative, and is funny enough. The central character is charming, but not in a obvious, easy way. Yes he's a widower, and yes it's hard, but that's not really the point and thankfully they don't try to make us cry between laughs. The writing is sharper than you might expect, yet it's not tonally different from CBS's other shows. Plus, Walton Goggins (Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Vice Principals) stars!
4. THE EMPEROR OF MALIBU (Warner Bros. Television)
When the son (Max Willems) of a Chinese billionaire (Ken Jeong) announces his engagement to an American woman, his outrageous family descends upon the couple to win back their son and test drive the American dream.
Let's address the elephant in the room first: yes, this project is highly influenced by the mega hit movie Crazy Rich Asians. First, there's the familiar east-meets-west theme. Second, it's written by Kevin Kwan, who wrote the book the movie was based upon. Third, Ken Jeong is back in the father role. It appears they found a cheaper version of Henry Golding in Max Willems, but he seems just as good-looking. Maybe he's funnier, too (which wouldn't be hard). I personally prefer ABC's attempt (Untitled Jessica Gao Project) because at least they tried to re-shape the concept a bit, plus it's female-focused, but The Emperor of Malibu works too. Yes, it's predictable, but the characters are engaging and they wisely tone down the romantic themes to focus on the family funny.
4. BROKE IN RESEDA (CBS Television Studios)
When an outrageously wealthy trust fund baby (Jaime Camil) is cut off by his father, he and his wife (Pauley Perrette) are forced to move in with her estranged sister (Nathasha Leggero).
It's hard to picture CBS greenlighting both Our House and Broke In Reseda, which are similar offerings. Here the star is not Heigl, but Pauley Perrette of NCIS fame. It would be her first project since leaving the long-running show, and that's liklely to be a draw in and of itself for some viewers. But is it enough? There's also a Jane The Virgin vibe, thanks to Jaime Camil playing basicaly the same role he played in The CW series and Jennie Snyder Urman producing it, as well. I found the pilot script funny, if a bit generic at times.
5. TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN (CBS Television Studios)
In an effort to turn around his banal life, Evan (Michael Angarano) sets out with his group of 20-something friends to accomplish a list of challenges he wrote for himself years ago.
Every year since How I Met Your Mother went off the air, CBS has tried to develop the perfect formula for another romantic hybrid comedy around a group of friends that would be different enough to warrant a series order. And every year, the high-concept pilots never seem to find their way to series pickup. I personally thought last year's entry, History Of Them, from One Day at a Time creator Gloria Calderon Kellett was promising, but that too was rejected. So here we are with yet another try. To Whom It May Concern is okay, and the concept of the "list of challenges", though not entirely new, works. Unfortunately it's the characters in this case that are lacking. Performances could change everything, but I'm not optimistic.
5. SUPER SIMPLE LOVE STORY (Sony Pictures Television & CBS Television Studios)
Interviews and vignettes spanning 10 years tell the story of how an unlikely couple (David Walton & Elizabeth Alderfer) become a family.
Here's another candidate in the never-ending How I Met Your Mother replacement race, from One Day at a Time executive producer Mike Royce. It may be a super simple love story, but if you ask me, it's told in a way that makes it way far more complicated than it needs to be. Yes, the interviews and vignettes are what differentiates the show from HIMYM, but truth be told, they're not all that groundbreaking a device. Let's make it even more simple, CBS: don't order it!
6. BOB HEARTS ABISHOLA (Warner Bros. Television)
After suffering a heart attack, a man (Billy Gardell) falls in love with his Nigerian nurse (Folake Olowofoyeku) and sets his sights on getting her to give him a chance…
After an unconvicing trip to Netflix with pot comedy Disjointed and critical darling The Kominsky Method, hit-maker Chuck Lorre is back at CBS. Like Lorre's Dharma & Greg and Mike & Molly, Bob <3 Abishola is a romantic comedy that turns into a family comedy. He even brought back Billy Gardell! It's not really bad -- none of CBS's comedy pilots are bad this year -- but Lorre has had far better ideas in the past, and the potential for a long run seems low with this project. Also, I found the way the hero tries to seduce his nurse a bit tone deaf in the post-#MeToo era. He's a little too insistant. CBS has better options, but I'm not stupid: they want to be in business with Lorre, so they'll probably order it anyway.
Jean-Maxime Renault is a TV addict based in Paris who writes about television and movies on AlloCiné (aka "the French IMDB"). In 2015 he created Season Zero, a website about television development and pilot season, which is now a part of Primetimer. Follow him on Twitter @SeasonZeroCom
TOPICS: CBS, Bob Hearts Abishola, Broke, Carol's Second Act, The Emperor of Malibu, Our House, Super Simple Love Story, To Whom It May Concern, The Unicorn, Patricia Heaton, Pauley Perrette