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Recommended: So Help Me Todd on CBS and Paramount+

The legal drama-lite starring Marcia Gay Harden is tailor-made for CBS on Thursdays.
  • Marcia Gay Harden and Skylar Astin in So Help Me Todd (Photo: CBS)
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    So Help Me Todd | CBS and Paramount+
    One-Hour Drama | TV-14

    What's So Help Me Todd About?

    A high-powered attorney hires her ne'er-do-well son after realizing he's useful to have around as a private investigator.

    Who's involved?

    • Academy Award winner Marcia Gay Harden plays Joan, who worked her way up from secretary to partner in a Portland law firm — but she's not stopping until she gets her name on the wall.
    • Skylar Astin plays Todd, who hasn't been able to find private-eye work since his license was revoked two years ago. He's currently living in his sister's garage.
    • Madeline Wise plays Allison, Todd's very competent, very put-upon sister, who is an ER doctor at the hospital closest to Powell's Books (a Portland staple). She also hosts family dinners that often devolve into yelling matches.
    • Tristen J. Winger plays Lyle, the law firm's IT guy and Todd's nemesis, who seems determined to make his life as difficult as possible.
    • Inga Schlingmann plays Susan, an old acquaintance of Todd's who also works at his mom's firm. 
    • Scott Prendergast, who played Scott on Silicon Valley, created So Help Me Todd and wrote the pilot.

    Why (and to whom) do we recommend it?

    It feels intentional that CBS has programmed this show on Thursday nights between two whimsical sitcoms (Young Sheldon and Ghosts) and the crime procedural CSI: Vegas. It sits somewhere between those two extremes, and somehow it succeeds.

    That's partly because you know where it's going from the moment it begins. It's obvious that Todd, a black sheep and a disgraced investigator, is going to bumble his way into a case that his mom is working on, then help her out of a jam. Naturally, mom is going to reward him with a job at her firm, where various character actors will arch their eyebrows at this nepotism hire who has no business being there… except that he keeps solving crimes. By delivering on all those narrative promises, the series fills its niche as network comfort viewing. 

    Scott Prendergast's script ably sets up the mother-son dynamic that is the lifeblood of the show. Harden and Astin do the rest, alternately annoying and looking out for each other. As they bicker, they find a pleasant rhythm that carries us through the case at hand.

    Their chemistry also helps smooth over the fact that even though it's set in Portland, the show barely seems to know the city. (In one scene, Joan orders Todd to stop driving his beater to work and gives him a bus pass, though exterior shots clearly show that they work at the Pacwest Center, which sits on three light-rail lines.)

    Since CBS is essentially promoting So Help Me Todd as a comedy, with promos that focus on banter more than legal maneuvering, it's safe to assume that the mother-son relationship will continue to guide the series. And since the showrunner is Elizabeth Klaviter, who had the same role on the excellent CBS drama Clarice, things should be steady at the helm.

    If you’re looking for more quirky PI shows, try

    • Psych: This buddy-detective series has enjoyed a long afterlife since airing on USA from 2006 to 2014. Dulé Hill and James Roday Rodriguez are magnetic as the best friends at the show's center. (Streaming on Peacock and Prime Video)
    • The Rockford Files: You really can't go wrong with anything from the first four seasons of Rockford, before Jim Garner's health issues and show fatigue got in the way. (Streaming on Freevee, Tubi, and Pluto TV)
    • Sherlock: Benedict Cumberbatch played Holmes, whose ongoing pursuit of Andrew Scott’s Moriarty kicked everything up a notch. (Streaming on Prime Video)

  • So Help Me Todd
    Premieres on CBS Thursday 9 p.m. ET, streaming next day on Paramount+.
    Created by: Scott Prendergast.
    Starring: Marcia Gay Harden, Skylar Astin, Madeline Wise, and Tristen J. Winger.
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    TOPICS: So Help Me Todd, CBS, Paramount+, Madeline Wise, Marcia Gay Harden, Scott Prendergast, Skylar Astin, Tristen J. Winger