It’s Fall premiere season, and lots of new shows aired on network TV this week. Interestingly, a lot of shows caught my eye, and so I’m now delivering to you, dear reader, a rundown of television shows you could add to your weekly lineup. I’ve watched them all for you so you can pick out your favorites.
Prodigal Son (Fox)
Prodigal Son follows Malcolm Bright, a criminal psychologist with a gift for tracking down serial killers. After being fired from his real job, Malcolm begins working with the NYPD, helping them catch a copycat serial killer who is taking his MO from a killer called The Surgeon. The catch? The Surgeon is Malcolm’s dad, arrested when he was young and locked away safely in prison for most of his life. Malcolm has to rebuild his relationship with his father in order to delve into the mind of the serial killer.
This show for sure feels like a rip off of Hannibal, Bryan Fuller’s 2013 series about Thomas Harris’s character of the same name. Where Hannibal’s moody atmosphere and subdued (yet delightfully campy) writing made the show fodder for fanfic writers and fans alike, Prodigal Son feels like a stripped down version. Michael Sheen plays The Surgeon, Malcolm’s father, with a wonderful manic energy, all smiles and crazy hair, yet the rest of the cast--though good on their own--doesn’t really mesh for me. The show feels disconnected, like (as Todd mentioned when we watched it) a group of stories that make sense individually but not as one cohesive story. This show is probably going to be a pass from me (unless it gets really good unexpectedly). Although it did make me want to rewatch Hannibal, Prodigal Son wasn’t good for much else.
Perfect Harmony (NBC)
When former Princeton music director Arthur Cochran considers his life in the parking lot of a church (where his recently-passed wife is buried), he hears the worst choir practice on earth. Enraged by the noise, Arthur drunkenly gets out of his car and barges into the church to instruct the group on how to improve their tone. Thus starts Perfect Harmony, the new show on NBC starring Bradley Whitford (who you may recognize from Get Out) as the cantankerous choir director.
I quite enjoyed Perfect Harmony, partially because I’m inclined to musical shows (yes, even Glee). The writing left something to be desired in its predictability, but I think that could improve after a few episodes. The premise, importantly, is interesting, and I’m curious to see how the show utilizes its large cast. Unfortunately, the show does indulge in some stereotypes--the sweet country woman who works at a diner, the redneck who can’t pronounce things, the large, shy man--but this didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the show. Admittedly, it’s hard to judge a show based on one episode, but I think I’ll keep this one in my lineup.
When I first saw the trailer for this show, I laughed and said, “Well, that looks terrible,” but it’s become one of my top picks of the season, one I’ll definitely keep watching. Emergence stars Allison Tolman as a small town police chief who lives with her father and daughter in a quiet neighborhood--until a plane crashes on a nearby beach, leaving a girl with strange powers and no memory behind. Alison Tolman is wonderful. While others have enjoyed her performances in shows like Fargo, this is the first I’ve seen of her, and I’m delighted by the emotion she brings to her character. It’s hard to describe really good acting, sometimes, but Tolman uses expressions to do a tremendous amount of work, communicating in an instant that she’s worried or scared or trying to be brave. The pilot episode does a lot of work in a short amount of time, introducing an entire slew of characters while maintaining a fairly action-packed plot, but ultimately it all works.
I got interested in television when Lost was airing on ABC, and Emergence reminds of what it’s like to tune in just to find out if your theory was correct, to find out what the next part of the mystery was. I’m excited to see how this show plays out. It could definitely go off the rails, down a path I don’t like, but for now I’m going to keep watching.
Sunnyside is about a failed politician, disgraced for drunkenly attempting to bribe a police officer. It’s also about a group of immigrants desperately seeking help in studying for their citizenship test. It’s an ensemble comedy with potential, but a lot of that potential wasn’t reached in the pilot, which mostly focused on Garrett Modi, the hard partying politician. The show’s pedigree is good; Michael Shur (of Parks & Rec and The Good Place fame) is one of the producers and Kal Penn (of Harold and Kumar go to White Castle fame) is one of the creators and writers for the show. That being said, it just didn’t stick with me. The jokes were funny and the premise is good, but something felt...off. Maybe it’s because another NBC comedy, Superstore, has done such an excellent job of portraying immigration as a complex, multifaceted issue. This show doesn’t fill a gap for me, and I’m not sure if I’ll keep watching it for the entire season, but I feel like I should. The cast is wonderfully diverse and funny, and that in and of itself seems to deserve attention, but I’m not interested in Garrett Modi as a character at all.
Also, mild spoiler for a 22 minute comedy, there’s a hard pivot into drama at the end of the show when one character gets detained by ICE. This is also something Superstore did, after seasons of buildup, and the turn felt unearned in Sunnyside. I didn’t even get a chance to know this character before he was taken away, so while I sympathized with him on a human level, I didn’t really mourn for the loss of the character. Most importantly, this gave the piece of crap that is Garrett Modi a chance to try and play the hero, which seemed again...off.
As a side note, Sunnyside is executive produced by Dan Spilo, who you might know from the latest season of Survivor. Yes, he is the guy who won’t stop touching women on their backs and thighs. *sigh*
I saved Evil for last because I’m confused about it. The show is part procedural crime drama, part supernatural thriller, and I can’t decide if I like it or not. The show is about Dr. Kristen Bouchard, a very skeptical forensic psychologist who teams up with David Acosta, a priest-in-training who investigates supernatural occurrences on behalf of the Catholic church. While that premise sounds exciting, it really didn’t pan out for me. Yes, I do love the supernatural, and yes, I have been known to watch a crime show or two, and yes, I do love Mike Colter, but the writing in the show just felt bad, predictable, cheesy. I found myself looking away for a lot of the show, and checking out what Caroline Calloway was up to on Instagram.
That being said, I’m interested in one detail of the show: George. For much of the first episode, Kristen is plagued by night terrors where a demon named George torments her with intimate details of her life. George’s makeup is kind of bad, but man, he’s unintentionally funny! The creepy-funny dynamic of George and Kristen is interesting, and might keep me watching.
Late in the show, Michael Emerson appears as what is almost assuredly the big bad, Dr. Leland Townsend, a man obsessed with the occult and encouraging others to do crimes. We didn’t get much of a peek at Emerson, but it’s good to see him playing the bad guy again, and his presence alone is enough to get me to watch a second episode.
Do you have a favorite fall premiere I didn’t mention? Tell us about it in the comments!