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COMMENTARY

'The Unicorn' highlights CBS' schedule of new shows with diverse casts

Alan Pergament

This is the first in a series of posts about new fall network television series.

It was only a few years ago CBS was heavily criticized for the lack of diversity in the casts of its programs.

CBS has rectified that criticism in recent years, with the new shows this season illustrating it has heard and answered the criticism loud and clear.

The casts in all five new series are diverse, with minority actors featured in lead roles in three of them.

I just wish the pilots of the series were a little stronger.

If you’ve watched a Buffalo Bills game this season, you’ve undoubtedly seen the promos and wondered if the shows are any good.

Now let’s take a quick look at the five new CBS series that premiere next week and my attempt to answer that question on the basis of only seeing a pilot.

“Bob Loves Abishola”

8:30 p.m. Monday

It’s a love story about an overweight guy (Billy Gardell) who sells socks falling in love with a cardiac nurse with Nigerian roots (Folake Olowofoyeku) who took care of him after a heart attack. Christine Ebersole co-stars.

You’ll like it if: You are disgusted about the way immigrants are being treated and appreciate the focus being on a hardworking single mother pursuing the American dream and hoping her young son will become a doctor.

You’ll hate it if: You are not a fan of potty humor – there are jokes about passing gas and urination in the first minute – and don’t buy this love match or how Abishola finds Bob amusing even though he appears to be a stalker.

Outlook: I wanted to love it. It has a sweet message, but the pilot is practically laugh-free and illustrates that writer-producer Chuck Lorre ("Big Bang Theory," "Young Sheldon") can sell just about anything to CBS. I wanted to put a sock in it after 5 minutes. However, Lorre has a habit of substantially improving his pilots. 2 stars out of 4.

•••

“All Rise”

9 p.m. Monday

A courthouse drama set in Los Angeles about a newly appointed African American prosecutor, Lola Carmichael (Simone Missick), who becomes a judge. She makes her own rules, sometimes shocking the lawyers she worked with before she was on the bench. Marg Helgenberger co-stars as a judicial leader who wants Lola to play by the old rules.

You’ll like it if: Missick passes your bar as a strong series lead who has been given the amusing nickname of the “Lolacoaster” because she tends to go hot and cold. You are attracted to the strong secondary, diverse cast of well-meaning lawyers who are going through some problems.

You’ll hate it if: You’re not a fan of shows that try too hard to get your attention. The pilot literally starts off with a bang.

Outlook: Missick could be a star, but unfortunately, the two legal cases in the pilot are weak and don’t rise to the level of interesting. 2 stars.

•••

“The Unicorn”

8:30 p.m. Thursday

A comedy about a widower and soccer coach, Wade (Walton Goggins), who hasn’t a clue about what constitutes a healthy meal for his two adolescent daughters and doesn’t realize he is a catch because he is an attractive decent guy with his heart in the right place. His diverse group of friends try to convince him to get back in the game. Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Omar Benson Miller and Maya Lynne Robinson co-star.

You’ll like it if: You enjoy watching how clueless a man can be and how awkward it can be for someone in their 40s to get back in the dating scene.

You’ll hate it if: You are allergic to too much sugar. This is a very sweet show.

Outlook: I initially thought Goggins (“Justified,” “The Shield”) was miscast in this comedy, but he is adorable in this role. As one of his female friends says, “He is an elusive creature all single women are looking for,” because he isn’t divorced or in the middle of a midlife crisis driving a Porsche. The diverse cast is excellent, especially Robinson as the mother of four married to his good friend. In short, you’ll root for Wade as much as his friends do to rediscover happiness. 3 stars.

•••

“Carol’s Second Act”

9:30 p.m. Thursday

Emmy Award winner Patricia Heaton stars in this comedy about a divorced 50-year-old mother and former science teacher who wants to become a doctor. She starts her medical career as a know-it-all intern who annoys the hospital’s head resident – a no-nonsense African American woman – and her classmates with her boundless enthusiasm and the knowledge she gathered from her first career. Kyle MacLachlan and Ito Aghayere co-star as doctors.

You’ll like it if: You’ve loved Heaton since “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “The Middle” and will watch her in anything.

You’ll hate it if: You aren’t a fan of age jokes and can tell from the promos this show and Heaton’s annoying character could give you a headache.

Outlook: l was as quickly annoyed by Carol as the chief resident was upon meeting her. Of course, I knew the chief resident eventually was going to impressed by Carol’s wisdom and experience in telling a patient he has cancer. “Giving bad news is difficult, you handled it well,” says the chief resident. TV isn’t life or death and Heaton certainly has had a great career, but the bad news is the jokes in this comedy get old real fast. 2 stars.

•••

“Evil

10 p.m. Thursday

A psychological mystery from Michelle and Robert King, the creators of “The Good Wife” and “The Good Fight.” It has some similarities to “The X-Files” in teaming a skeptic with a believer. Katja Herbers is a skeptical psychologist and single mother with financial issues who teams with a priest-in-training, David Acosta (Mike Colter, who played a drug dealer on the Kings’ other shows), to investigate “supposed miracles, demonic possessions and hauntings” to determine if there is a logical explanation or something supernatural going on. “I want your honest opinion, I want your skepticism,” Acosta tells the psychologist. The always creepy Michael Emerson (“Lost’) shows up late in the pilot as an unprincipled guy who is a cheerleader for the evil people in the world.

You’ll like it if: You were a fan of the charismatic Colter in the Kings’ previous series and are into unexplained phenomena.

You’ll hate it if: With all the evil going on in the world now, you don’t want to be reminded by an entertainment show that it could be worse.

Outlook: The case in the stylish pilot, about a criminal who claimed he was possessed, was routine. I wouldn't bet against the Kings. My honest assessment: I love the cast, but don’t believe in the show. 2 stars.

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