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Alan Pergament: Not much to cheer about in the coming broadcast TV season

The start of a new fall broadcast network television season used to be as exciting as waiting for the Buffalo Bills to open the season with renewed optimism.

However, 2018 doesn’t offer much to cheer about.

The four broadcast networks only sent DVDs of 15 series, which is about how many series Netflix seems to premiere in a month. More are coming, including the reboot of Diane English’s “Murphy Brown.”

But the fall isn’t as important as it used to be, partly because Sunday night on NBC and Thursday night on Fox are devoted to pro football, and partly because the networks have had more success premiering series in midseason.

While the cable networks – many owned by the broadcast networks – and the streaming sites generally go for edgy material, the broadcast networks generally play it safe. Very safe. They are looking to satisfy viewers who have stuck with them rather than offer anything original.

The most notable things about the new broadcast season are the diversity of the casts and how many series wouldn’t have looked out of place in 1982. There also is a noticeable attempt to connect emotionally with viewers, most likely inspired by the success of NBC’s “This Is Us.”

Here is a night-by-night rundown of the series available for preview so far.


“God Friended Me,” 8 p.m., CBS: Brandon Hall stars as the 20-something son of a Harlem preacher and widower (played by Joe Morton of “Scandal”). He has a podcast in which he denies the existence of God and hasn’t talked to his dad in months. Then he is friended on a social network by God, who sets in motion events that make him question his views. Along the way, he meets an online journalist (Violett Beane), who potentially walks into one of the greatest stories ever told.

  • You’ll like it if: You enjoyed the charismatic Hall in ABC’s “The Mayor” last season more than you did the show. You were a big fan of “Highway to Heaven” and “Touched by an Angel” and don’t think there are enough positive shows on TV.
  • You’ll dislike it if: There really isn’t much to dislike. Maybe you’ll hate it if you can’t stand sweetness.
  • Outlook: After “60 Minutes,” it should appeal to older viewers looking for something decent on Sunday night. 3 stars out of 4.

Violett Beane, left, as Cara Weiss, and Brandon Hall as Miles Finer in CBS' "God Friended Me." (Photo by Jonathan Wenk/CBS)

“Rel,” 9:30 p.m.,Fox: Lil Rel Howery  stars in a multi-camera comedy as a successful, hardworking father and husband in Chicago whose life dramatically changes after discovering his wife is having an affair with a barber he loves. To make matters worse, his son and daughter have moved to Cleveland with their mother. Sinbad plays his recently widowed dad.

  • You’ll like it if: You thought Rel’s comic turn in the Jordan Peele movie “Get Out” was the best thing about the movie.
  • You’ll dislike it if: You despise the relative salty language, you’re not a fan of loud laugh tracks and don’t think dealing drugs is something to laugh about.
  • Outlook: I like Howery, but this is an old-fashioned comedy with one repetitive joke. I can’t see it making much noise. 2 stars.


"The Neighborhood," 8 p.m., CBS: Cedric the Entertainer stars in a comedy about a cheerful, white, small town Michigan couple with a son who move next door to an African-American family in Los Angeles whose patriarch (played by Cedric) isn’t thrilled and is outspoken about it. His wife is more welcoming. However, this being television, the hostility may not last for too long. Max Greenfield (“The New Girl”) plays a cheerful professional conflict mediator from Michigan whose skills will be tested by his neighbor. Beth Behrs (“2 Broke Girls”) is his wife.

  • You’ll like it if: You love Cedric and like the idea of the African-American being the one who appears to be prejudiced and has no interest in building a relationship with a white family that desperately – perhaps too desperately – wants to be friends.
  • You’ll dislike it if: Greenfield’s character seems too good to be true.
  • Outlook: The pilot has a few good lines, one directed at the definition of a progressive school. But like the Greenfield’s character, this show tries too hard. I suppose a show that deals with elements of racism is progressive and worthy of discussion, but 8 p.m. Monday is a tough TV neighborhood. 2 1/2 stars.

"Happy Together," 8:30 p.m., CBS: Damon Wayans Jr. is an accountant happily married to a woman who designs restaurants (played by Amber West). Their life is disrupted when a foreign rock superstar (Felix Mallard) moves in with them on a temporary basis and discovers the joys of living a normal life. Harry Styles of One Direction is one of the executive producers in a comedy that is an exaggerated version of a period of his life.

  • You'll like it if: You enjoy watching a happily married and beautiful couple trying to act younger than they already are and think rock stars actually want to live normal lives.
  • You'll dislike it if: You can’t get past the ridiculous premiere, even if it was inspired by Styles’ life. And you’re not a fan of age jokes.
  • Outlook: It didn't sing for me. I think the premise could get old awfully fast. 2 1/2 stars.

"Magnum, P.I.," 9 p.m., CBS: The original series starring Tom Selleck has been modernized with the private eye and security consultant played by Jay Hernandez and a British woman played by Perdita Weeks playing Higgins, the caretaker of the luxurious estate where he has a guest cottage. She is a former MI: 6 agent who doesn't enjoy Magnum's nonsense.

  • You’ll like it if: You find Hernandez as appealing in the role as I did and enjoy the idea of a kick-butt woman in Higgins.
  • You’ll dislike it if: You wish TV would stop remaking its former hits and leave that tired idea to the movies.
  • Outlook: It isn’t original in any way, but I enjoyed it much more than I expected to because of the casting and the action. I just wish there had been more humor. 3 stars.

Perdita Weeks, left, as Juliet Higgins, and Jay Hernandez as Thomas Magnum in CBS' "Magnum, P.I." (Karen Neal/CBS)

"Manifest," 9 p.m., NBC: Director Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump”) is one of the producers of a series about passengers who survive a scary airplane incident with one huge catch: They missed more than five years of their life. They haven’t aged, but their friends and family members have and didn’t stop living their lives. The passengers think their manifest destiny is to use their second chance in life to do something good. Melissa Roxburgh (“Valor”) and Josh Dallas (“Once Upon a Time”) lead a diverse cast.

  • You’ll like it if: You like the Rip Van Winkle premise and some strange plot lines about a character seeing and hearing things that can save people’s lives.
  • You’ll dislike it if: You’re not a fan of sappy dialogue like, “You still take my breath away,” and programs that try way too hard to make viewers emotional.
  • Outlook: On the plus side, I know plenty of people who wish they missed the last few years. This emotional series has elements of sci-fi but isn’t “Lost” by any stretch of the imagination. The pilot didn’t take my breath away, but at least the premise seems potentially long lasting. 2 1/2 stars.


“The Conners,” 8 p.m. ABC: John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert try to prove there is life after the career suicide of Roseanne Barr.

  • You’ll like it if: You thought Barr was the most annoying part of her classic sitcom.
  • You’ll dislike it if: You view it as a money grab by everyone but Barr, who reportedly isn’t getting any money for the rights.
  • Outlook: This revival will get a great ratings start, but its overall success will depend on the audience’s love of Goodman. ABC hasn’t sent a pilot so I can’t rate it.

“The Kids Are Alright,” 8:30 p.m., ABC: Michael Cudlitz and Mary McCormack star as the parents of a traditional, large, working-class Irish Catholic family of eight boys in Los Angeles who grew up in a house with one bathroom in the 1970s. The oldest and most treasured son announces he’s quitting the seminary to “save the world.” ABC said the series is inspired by the childhood of creator/executive producer Tim Doyle, who also narrates in voice-over as one of the sons.

  • You’ll like it if: You’re nostalgic for the days of large families and can laugh at the competition for attention from parents who aren’t exactly warm and cuddly. Mom tells one son, an aspiring actor, “We don’t have the whereabouts for any kid to be special.”
  • You’ll dislike it if: You hate all the Irish clichés and the need to tie everything up in the pilot sweetly.
  • Outlook: It is a cute, very exaggerated view – one son sleeps under the dining room table – of the Irish Catholic experience, but it had enough laughs and heart to make me hope it stays around as long as “The Goldbergs.” 3 stars.

"FBI," 9 p.m., CBS: This series from prolific producer and law and order expert Dick Wolf is about as exciting as the title. It is set in the FBI office in New York and stars Missy Peregrym as widowed special agent Maggie Bell, who is teamed with special agent Omar Adom "OA" Zidan (Zeeko Zaki). They investigate cases involving terrorism, organized crime and counterintelligence. Jeremy Sisto and Sela Ward star as special agents in charge.

  • You’ll like it if: You liked Peregrym in the underrated ABC series “Rookie Blue” and think any series with Ward can’t be all bad.
  • You’ll dislike it if: You expect more than a series that, despite some updating, seems something out of the 1980s.
  • Outlook: The pilot, which involved an MS-13 gang case, is as dull as the title. Peregrym hardly suits playing a tough character full of guilt. Even Ward, who joined after the pilot, probably can’t save it creatively, but it is the kind of series that suits CBS' strategy.  2 stars.

“New Amsterdam,” 10 p.m., NBC: Ryan Eggold (“The Blacklist”) stars as a superman doctor and medical director, who is on a mission to radically change and save the oldest public hospital in America at the same time his life and marriage are in jeopardy. The diverse cast includes Freema Agyeman, Janet Montgomery, Jocko Sims, Anupam Kher and Tyler Labine.

  • You’ll like it if: You love hospital series that follow the “ER” medical fantasy formula of having an attractive, diverse cast playing caring doctors working under difficult and fast-paced situations. And you think Eggold is the next George Clooney.
  • You’ll dislike it if: Eggold’s well-meaning – almost saintly – character repeatedly asks his staff, “How can I help?” Well, he’d be helped if his character wasn’t so saintly.
  • Outlook: I’d never bet against a hospital series working in Buffalo.  2 1/2 stars.

Freema Agyeman, left, as Dr. Helen Sharpe, and Ryan Eggold as Dr. Max Goodwin in NBC's "New Amsterdam." (Photo by Will Hart/NBC)

“The Rookie,” 10 p.m., ABC: Nathan Fillion stars as a small-town guy who becomes a Los Angeles police officer at age 40 and experiences skepticism from fellow officers about his physical ability to do the job. The diverse cast includes Richard T. Jones, the sergeant who is on his case for being a “walking midlife crisis.”

  • You’ll like it if: You can’t go a TV season without the likable Fillion starring in some show.
  • You’ll dislike it if: You find the premise of superiors rooting against a 40-year-old cop with great instincts learning on the job a little unreal.
  • Outlook: As usual, Fillion is likable, but it is a routine cop show. The premise isn’t as long-lasting as Fillion's last hit, “Castle.” 2 1/2 stars.


"All American," 9 p.m., CW: A high school football star and "A" student, Spencer James (Daniel Ezra), is persuaded to move away from South Crenshaw High in Compton to attend a Beverly Hills high school whose coach (played by Taye Diggs) isn’t totally honest about why he wants him to transfer. He has to deal with jealous teammates – including the quarterback who also is the coach’s son (Michael Evans Behling). However, the coach’s beautiful, troubled daughter (Samantha Logan) is on his side.

  • You'll like it if: You’re a fan of Diggs and loved NBC's “Friday Night Lights” as much as I did.
  • You’ll dislike it if: You have sworn off football after the Bills' disastrous start.  Seriously, there isn’t much to dislike unless you are thrown for a loss by all the back-stabbing that goes on.
  • Outlook: Of course, few people in Western New York even watch the good CW series carried on WNLO-TV, so I doubt this one inspired by the life of NFL player Spencer Paysinger (who played for seven years in the league) has much of a chance to succeed here. But as a huge fan of “Friday Night Lights,” I’m rooting big time for the series from the factory of successful producer Greg Berlanti. It is a winner. 3 stars.

"Single Parents," 9:30 p.m., ABC: A comedy about single parents of various ages helping each other raise their kids. Taran Killam of “Saturday Night Live” is the biggest kid, a 30-something father who is clueless about almost everything, doesn’t think he is capable of “hiding my mush” and is prone to say “I love you” too quickly on dates. Leighton Meester and Brad Garrett are co-stars.

  • You’ll like it if: You enjoy watching the struggles of single parenthood played for exaggerated laughs and have missed Killam since he exited “SNL.”
  • You’ll dislike it if: You don’t believe the too-mature-for-their-years children or anyone else in the series behaves this way and don’t find anything funny about the exaggerated humor.
  • Outlook: I am as mushy as the next guy, but Killam’s best efforts playing a sophomoric character fell flat. It is cute, sad and dumb. 2 stars.

“A Million Little Things,” 10 p.m., ABC: Four longtime Boston Bruins fans who met in an elevator realize they rarely show any deep emotions to each other and finally decide to try to address the depressing ups and downs of marriage and life in this male-bonding series. Ron Livingston (“Band of Brothers”) and David Giuntoli (“Grimm”) are the most recognizable faces in the cast.

  • You’ll like it if: You enjoy seeing men eventually doing something they rarely do – sharing their feelings – and a musical soundtrack that plays with viewers’ emotions.
  • You’ll dislike it if: You find it hard for Buffalonians to sympathize with Bruins fans and think the story lines are way too dark, depressing and grim. The promos give away one of the grimmest aspects of the pilot.
  • Outlook: After ABC’s poignant promos, I really, really wanted to like this series. But it tries too hard to move viewers emotionally and has several other little things that seem fake. I’ll still be back to give the second episode a try because, well, I am a mushy guy, and I'm sure the promo for the next episode will be a winner, too. 2 1/2 stars.

David Giuntoli, left, and Chance Hurstfield in ABC's "A Million Little Things." (Photo by ABC/Jack Rowand)


“I Feel Bad,” 9:30 p.m., NBC: In this multi-generational comedy from executive producer Amy Poehler, a woman trying to juggle life as a mother, wife, friend and daughter feels bad about myriad of things because she isn’t perfect. She is the only woman working in a video company. Sarayu Blue, Paul Adelstein, Zach Cherry, Johnny Pemberton and James Buckley star.

  • You’ll like it if: Blue’s zaniness as the stressed woman with fear of becoming her mother wins you over.
  • You’ll dislike it if: It is just way too busy to enjoy.
  • Outlook: I like Blue a lot, but feel bad I didn’t like the show more. It will compete opposite the timely revival of Diane English’s “Murphy Brown,” which is unavailable for review. 2 1/2 stars.


“The Cool Kids,” 8:30 p.m., Fox: Savvy old comedic pros Martin Mull, David Alan Grier, Leslie Jordan and Vicki Lawrence play characters living in a retirement home in this old-style comedy. Grier appears to be the most opinionated, Jordan plays a gay senior and Mull plays a detached old-timer with a prison record. The old men reluctantly give Lawrence a seat at their table to replace a friend who has died.

  • You’ll like it if: You long for “The Golden Girls” and watching old actors having fun playing non-judgmental characters partaking in childish games with an anything-goes and anything-can-be said philosophy.
  • You’ll dislike it if: Old jokes from old people about Alzheimer’s don’t work for you.
  • Outlook: Life is too short. I didn’t last 10 minutes watching the pilot the first time. The premise likely will get old awfully fast. 2 stars.
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