Roush Review: 'Prodigal Son,' 'Bob ♥ Abishola,' 'All Rise,' 'Bluff City Law'
Here we go again with network TV's official premiere week, one of the few times of the year when the traditional broadcast networks steal the spotlight from newer-fangled streamers and cable nets.
There are fewer new network series joining the lineup this fall than used to be the norm, as networks play it safe and keep many of their prospects on hold until midseason. But Monday’s lineup is especially busy.
Or: My Dad Is Hannibal Lecter. Jittery, lurid, and quite a bit of creepy fun, this mystery series with a very twisted twist follows the exploits of know-it-all criminal profiler Malcolm Bright (The Walking Dead's appealing Tom Payne), who'd be insufferably smug if he weren't such damaged goods.
Damaged because he fears he's a chip off the old psycho block, having been raised by Dr. Martin Whitly, aka the notorious "Surgeon," a serial killer with at least 23 victims to his discredit. As the sinister and unrepentant Martin, the terrific character Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex) has a field day in a role that you'd characterize as over-the-top, but only if you missed his more flagrant scenery-chewing on The Good Fight last season. He's somehow more contained here, even when flashing a fiendish grin and popping his gleaming eyes when welcoming "my boy" back into his prison lair.
Prodigal Son's high concept, borrowing a page from Clarice Starling's consultations with Hannibal Lecter back in the day, means twitchy Malcolm (who's prone to night terrors and neurological tremors stemming from the trauma of his youth) will keep coming back to Daddy Dr. Death for consultations on especially grisly crimes. The cases tend to go to grotesque extremes, which is a good (if icky) thing, because the devil is otherwise lacking in the details, including a routine supporting cast — with the exception of Scandal's delicious Bellamy Young as Malcolm's glamorous mother and Lou Diamond Phillips as his police mentor.
The best moments, naturally, occur in the scenes between the manipulative, wily Martin and his brilliant but neurotic offspring, who's haunted by a lingering mystery from when he helped put his dad away. Martin is desperate to keep this weird relationship going, because as he puts it: "We're both obsessed with murder. Like father, like son." Like viewer?
Prodigal Son, Series Premiere, Monday, September 23, 9/8c, Fox
Bob ♥ Abishola
It's love at first heart attack, though the feeling might not be mutual, in a likable but largely forgettable not-quite-romantic comedy from Chuck Lorre. Bob (Mike & Molly's Billy Gardell) is a blustery bloke from Detroit whose family business is compression socks — and boy, are there a lot of sock jokes in this show. Couldn't blame you if you find yourself wanting to tell Bob, and especially his shrill family, to just put a sock in it. But then there's Abishola.
Played with a stern and weary gravity by Folake Olowofoyeku, Abishola — don’t call her Abby! — is a hard-working cardiac nurse, a Nigerian refugee who lives with her young son, aunt, and uncle. She doesn't easily embrace the concept of fun — "I am from Nigeria. Nigerians don't do useless things" — and doesn't find Bob's jokes particularly funny. (To be fair, they're not that great.) But she is slowly disarmed by his attentions, once Bob brings her socks as a peace offering after their hospital meet-cute. Abishola's life of assimilation is fertile and promising ground for a relevant comedy, and the scenes where she contends with gossip at work and on the bus (which she shared with a friend played by cocreator Gina Yashere) and with her overeager aunt and uncle are fresh and enjoyable.
The problem with the show, which is evident pretty much from the start: Abishola can do better than Bob.
Bob ♥ Abishola, Series Premiere, Monday, September 23, 8:30/7:30c, CBS
Stay seated. The night's two new legal dramas don't exactly set precedent with originality. But All Rise at least tries to be entertaining, in the seriocomic earnest-meets-silly style of second-tier David E. Kelley. And there's a genuine star performance from Simone Missick (Luke Cage) as newly appointed, and highly caffeinated, Superior Court Judge Lola Carmichael. Or "the Lola-coaster," as the more skeptical within the Los Angeles courthouse see her.
Lola is outspoken and unafraid to wield her new power against crooked detectives or arrogant ICE agents, even when the old guard (including Marg Helgenberger as a sympathetic supervising judge) keeps warning her not to make waves. When her snippy judicial assistant (Tony winner Ruthie Ann Miles) advises Lola, "The name of the game is speed," you might think she's referring to the show's constant rapid-fire banter. Lola at least commands attention, which is more than can be said for the other courthouse regulars, a bland crew whose subplots have all the impact of a broken gavel.
All Rise, Series Premiere, Monday, September 23, 9/8c, CBS
Bluff City Law
Saving the least for last, the only way you'll find flavor in this preachy, drippy legal drama is when the attorneys leave work behind and dig into the best things Memphis has to offer: barbecue and the blues.
Otherwise, you're left with Jimmy Smits spewing platitudes as fabled civil-rights lawyer Elijah Strait, a local would-be Atticus Finch (albeit with personal flaws in his past) who woos his prickly corporate-law shark of a daughter, Sydney (dour Caitlin McGee), back into his small firm with lines like, "The world's running out of heroes." Elijah smartly figures that to take on the powerful big-business villains who outnumber them in the first and second episodes, might as well use someone who speaks their language. Sydney, though, has a chip on her shoulder when it comes to her dad, and her ex (UnREAL's Josh Kelly), who's the chief of detectives, and she has trouble adjusting to a job where she actually cares whether she wins or loses.
If I said I cared how things turned out in this mediocre paean to predictability, I'd be bluffing.
Bluff City Law, Series Premiere, Monday, September 23, 10/9c, NBC