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'Bob (Hearts) Abishola' is a Delightful Surprise This Season – Its First
December 22, 2019  | By Mike Hughes

It's time for a mid-course correction.

When the season started, I picked NBC's Perfect Harmony as the best new situation comedy, based on its near-perfect pilot episode.

Harmony remains a good show, but it's no match for my new No. 1. In slow, sly ways, CBS' Bob (Hearts) Abishola has become addictive.

In one way, the show shouldn't surprise us: It's produced by Chuck Lorre, who's done terrific comedies, including The Big Bang Theory and Mom. But in another way, it does: Lorre lets each show have its own style and rhythm.

Big Bang and Mom pushed hard for laughs; Bob doesn't.

It has a droll, dry style. For that, we might credit show-runner Alan Higgins (who also works with Lorre on the Golden Globe-winning Kominsky Method); still, let's also credit Gina Yashere. Lorre wanted a nod to hard-working immigrants. As he leaned toward a Nigerian character, he realized he was out of his field. Fortunately, he found Yashere, an English comedian whose parents emigrated from Nigeria.

As a writer and producer, Yashere brought quick changes – including the name "Abishola." She also became a co-star, as Abishola's friend Kemi. And the show took on its own sound and feel.

Some humor is neatly patterned to a specific accent. We've seen that in the past with characters ranging from Boston to the Deep South, from England to Russia. And we see it here.

The Nigerian characters have a matter-of-fact way of talking. Even the name "Bob" has a different feel. When they're given droll dialog, the humor works, and the characters become instantly likable.

There are four main Nigerian characters – Abishola (Folake Olowofoyeku), the aunt and uncle she lives with (Shola Adewusi and Barry Shabaka Henley), and Kemi. We also briefly see her son (a nice kid who makes her breakfast, played by Travis Wolfe, Jr.) and the handsome-but-boring pharmacist, Chukwuemeka (Tony Tambi) some people want her to date.

On the flip side is Bob, a sock manufacturer from Detroit. Standard sitcoms would have him be her opposite – high-energy and fast-talking. But here he's played quietly by Billy Gardell. Two understated cultures – Nigerian and Midwestern – mesh neatly.

The only nod to standard sitcoms is in his family, all part of the sock company. There's a ne'er-do-well brother Douglas (Matt Jones), a rarely-do-well sister Christina (Maribeth Monroe), and an often-bossy mom, Dottie (Christine Ebersole). Even those characters, however, were improved by a terrific episode Monday (December 16); for now, catch the reruns, with a couple in particular.

Just a little background from the pilot: Bob is a heart-attack patient who, while in the hospital, falls for his nurse, Abishola. The pilot is worth watching if you're able (as of this writing, it's free on the CBS website).

On the episode airing Wednesday, December 25 at 8:30 p.m. ET: They finally have their first date – interrupted with news of Dottie's health emergency.

And on Monday, December 30 at 8:30 p.m. ET: As Dottie remains ill, her kids are overwhelmed. Abishola, already working full-time at the hospital, helps them part-time.

On the December 16 episode mentioned earlier, we found that Dottie is sharper than implied. She told each kid that she was designating him or her to run the company after she dies – if they shaped up, according to her specifications, and didn't tell the others.

It was a clever touch, shoring up the only weak portion of a dandy show. We look forward to what's coming when new episodes arrive, starting January 6.

First, please sample those reruns.

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