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CBS Presents New Fall Shows at TCA
August 1, 2017  | By Ed Bark
 

Beverly Hills, CA -- CBS put its best new shows forward Tuesday during the network's jammed one-day presentation on the TCA summer press tour.

Young Sheldon, a seemingly can't miss spinoff of The Big Bang Theory, led off the morning, followed by the lesser, but still promising Me, Myself & I.

Both are comedies but here's a not inconsequential subplot. Neither is filmed before a live studio audience and juiced with a laugh track when necessary. For CBS, these "single-cam" sitcoms violate a longstanding, old-time religion. And no one at the network, including your dogged TVWorthWatching correspondent, can remember CBS ever starting the fall with two such creatures. On ABC, NBC, Fox and most cable networks, single-cam comedies have become the norm.

"We still believe in multi-cams. We aren't going to run away from them," new entertainment president Kelly Kahl stressed 90 minutes before taking the stage for his inaugural press conference. Kahl, who's been with CBS since 1996, agreed that the network assuredly has never entered the fall with two new CBS sitcoms that don't rely on studio audiences or piped-in laughs. CBS also has the returning Life In Pieces, the first successful single-cam comedy in the network's storied history.

Executive producer Chuck Lorre (left), whose success stories at CBS include Two and a Half Men, Big Bang and Mom, told TVWW that Young Sheldon is his maiden voyage with the single-cam format.

"I'm a nervous wreck. It's an entirely different animal," he said. "The pacing is entirely different. The actors don't have to hold for laughs."

Still, Lorre sees it as a "more appropriate way" to work with the show's three child actors. A more "closed setting" takes off the pressure of learning on the job while a studio audience takes it all in.

Big Bang star Jim Parsons narrates while newcomer Iain Armitage (top, with Parsons) portrays him as a decidedly precocious nine-year-old who's joining his dismissive older brother, George Jr. (Montana Jordan), as a high school freshman.

In the pilot episode, Parsons sets the stage by deadpanning, "East Texas, 1989. The only Newtons they cared about were Wayne -- and Fig."

"We absolutely discussed The Wonder Years when we were writing," Lorre acknowledged.

Young Sheldon eventually will be paired on Thursday nights with Big Bang (right), but not until Nov. 2 after CBS' short run of NFL football games. But it will get a sneak preview on Monday, Sept. 25 before a six-week layoff.

In real-life, "I was not an overly bright child. I was mediocre," Parsons said. "I did not befuddle my parents. That came later with my sexuality." (Parsons is openly gay.)

Armitage, a natural scene-stealer, was first glimpsed by Lorre via a home video on his iPhone. Presto, the role was cast.

"I don't watch much TV at all," the kid said. Nor does he like video games. Instead he reads a lot, plays with his friends and likes stuffed animals, Armitage said.

So has he ever worn a bow tie before? In "Young Sheldon" it's an essential accessory before his mom finally pries it away from him on his first day in high school -- after promising a visit to Radio Shack.

"Oh my goodness. So many times," Armitage succinctly replied.

Zoe Perry, who very appealingly plays his supportive mom, used to be a kid running around the set of "Roseanne" when he worked on that show, Lorre recalled. He claims to have seen a future actress there, and now that's the reality.

In contrast, new cast  member Annie Potts has been around for ages, most famously as a co-star of CBS' Designing Women.She'll play Sheldon's grandma, but "we're still inventing her," Potts said. "Once I get my Texas boots on and my Texas hair on, it'll all be clear."

Me, Myself & I sequentially stars Jack Dylan Grazer, Bobby Moynihan and John Larroquette as 14- 40- and 65-year-old Alex. They look nothing alike, and co-executive producer Dan Kopelman said that really doesn't matter.

"I never considered aging Bobby up" and not using Larroquette, he said. "Honestly, it was get the best actors possible for the role . . If we do our job right, the audience is going to go along for the ride."

Moynihan, who just moved from New York to Los Angeles, is segueing from a nine-year stint on Saturday Night Live.

"I would have stayed there forever and ever and ever," he said. But the CBS show "kind of came out of nowhere" and rather suddenly it was time for him to go.

He did get to do "Drunk Uncle" for a last time on the latest SNL season finale. But now "I'm done with SNL and I'm getting older, and it's changing," he said of his new life and role.

***

Kahl later took the main stage for the first time ever, and got a laugh for starters by noting that he and new programming vice president Thom Sherman "if nothing else" have "lasted longer than 'The Mooch' (quickly sacked White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci)."

"I love network TV. I believe in network TV . . . This is all pretty cool and humbling for a kid from Wisconsin who devoured TV like candy while growing up," he said.

Kahl also pledged allegiance to "broad appeal shows," but said that he and Sherman also are intent on "expanding the palette, and we're going to do that."

Then the roof caved in, with Kahl and Sherman hit with one "diversity" question after another in connection with the network's fall slate of six new series, all of them headed by males. The network continues to lack shows with female leads and casts with people of color in significant roles, the two executives were told.

Sherman said that six CBS shows with women in the leads were developed last year, but for one reason or another, none made the cut.

"There is change happening at CBS," Kahl insisted, noting that a new midseason show is headed by a gay character and the fall reboot of S.W.A.T. stars Shemar Moore from the network's Criminal Minds as an African-American Hondo Lane.

"We have a lot of long-running shows, so there's not a lot of shelf space at times," Sherman added.

These have been the CBS talking points for the last several years, but Kahl and Sherman deserve at least some time to act on the changes they insist are coming.

Shortly after Kahl and Sherman took all of this considerable heat, CBS loaded TV critics onto shuttle buses for a trip to the CBS Studio Center in Studio City. Sessions for the rest of the network's new fall offerings are being held there, and that definitely is a change.

And now it's time for me to go -- unfortunately.

 
 
 
 
 
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