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CBS's New Fall Shows: First Clips, First Impressions
May 16, 2012  | By David Bianculli  | 3 comments

CBS's plans for the fall 2012 TV season include moving Two and a Half Men and The Mentalist to new nights, and introducing four new series: three dramas, and one comedy. Once again, we offer first impressions, and first available video samples...

On Wednesday, CBS unveiled its highly guarded strategy for the fall 2012 TV season, which included moving the somewhat ailing Two and a Half Men to a more protected time slot (8:30 p.m. ET Thursdays, behind Big Bang Theory), and moving the well-performing The Mentalist to Sundays at 10 p.m., as a fitting companion to The Good Wife.

CBS, as usual, made moves that were conservative yet smart –protecting and prolonging existing hits, while nurturing and showcasing new ones. Its three new dramas are either police shows or lawyer shows, and its one new comedy comes from, and is based on the relationship between, the creators of Will & Grace.

The comedy, getting the plum Monday 8:30 p.m. ET slot hammocked between How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls, is called Partners. It’s created by, and based on the lives of, TV writer-producers David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, business partners with markedly different lifestyles: one straight, one gay.

In Partners, the straight one is Joe, played by David Krumholtz, and the gay one is Louis, played by Michael Urie. Sophia Bush and Brandon Routh play their respective love interests – and the best endorsement for this new series, sight unseen, is that its pilot is directed by James Burrows, the superstar TV comedy director who, among other things, directed every episode of Kohan and Mutchnick’s Will & Grace. 

But why go sight unseen? Here’s a taste of the new show – a first sampling that leaves me with mixed feelings. Not so impressed by the script, but seeing lots of good comic energy, once again, from Urie, who played the fussy and catty executive assistant on Ugly Betty. But you decide for yourself…

Of the dramas, two of them are variations on high-concept series already currently on television.

Elementary, scheduled Thursday nights at 10 ET, is, like the current Sherlock series presented on PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery, a modern reimagining of the Sherlock Holmes stories and characters by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In the CBS version, Holmes has left his London Baker Street flat and adventures behind, and relocated, reluctantly, to New York City – where, before long, he and his addiction-specialist doctor, Joan Watson, assist the local police in solving puzzling murder cases. Holmes is played by Jonny Lee Miller, and this distaff Watson by Lucy Liu. (They’re seen, in character, in the photo at the top of this column.)

Those who, like myself, adore the new British incarnation of Sherlock may come to this new version a bit skeptically. Here’s a first glimpse, though, of Elementary – after which, if you’re like me, your skepticism will have not eroded much. First impression? Passable, and some of the Sherlockian moments are effective – but this doesn’t feel much like the crackling, unpredictable Sherlock. Here’s a sample:


The second new CBS drama, scheduled for Tuesdays at 10 p.m. in place of the canceled Unforgettable, brings to mind Starz’s Magic City, a period piece about a Miami hotel operator trying to resist the encroachment of the Mob in the dawn of the Sixties. Here, the 1960s setting is Las Vegas (which also brings to mind NBC’s classic Crime Story), and it’s the fact-based story of Sheriff Ralph Lamb, a rancher-turned-lawman who, in this series, butts heads with an incoming mobster from Chicago.

On paper, this new series, called Vegas, may sound painfully derivative. (Down to its title, though the old Robert Urich series was spelled, annoyingly, Vega$.) But both its cast and its creator come with all sorts of instant cred.

Dennis Quaid, in his first starring role in a TV series, plays the sheriff, and Michael Chiklis – after doing the best he could in the poorly scripted No Ordinary Family – returns to a Shield-like tough-guy role as the Chicago mobster.

Just as impressively, Vegas is co-written by Nicholas Pileggi, whose previous forays into crime dramas you might have encountered: They include a couple of movies called Goodfellas and Casino. It’s a juicy role for Quaid, and, based on this first impression, it’s the actors, as well as the writers, who do the heavy lifting here. Definitely one to sample in full – and, right now, in part.

 And finally, there’s Made in Jersey, scheduled Fridays at 9 p.m. ET between the New York-centered CSI: NY and Blue Bloods. Janet Montgomery, who’s had recurring roles on Entourage and Human Target, stars as Martina Garretti, a legal-drama Working Girl – a street-smart Jersey girl who more than holds her own in the courtrooms and law offices of New York City. Kyle MacLachlan plays the founder of the law firm, who notices and embraces her unconventional methods almost instantly. If that sounds like a USA Network series concept, note that series creator Dana Calvo last wrote for both Franklin & Bash and Covert Affairs.

So will Made in Jersey finally be something from television that will give the Garden State a good name? Based on first impressions, I’ll tell you, I was positively surprised. Montgomery may indeed emerge as, in the words of CBS executive Tina Tassler at the CBS upfronts Wednesday, “the next breakout CBS star.” But it doesn’t look as nuanced, or smart, as The Good Wife, so I’ll reserve judgment until I see a full episode. Meanwhile, there’s this…

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When I saw that CBS was moving "Two and a Half" to Thursdays at 8:30, I had a sinking feeling that they're trying to kill it off next season. Why else schedule it opposite "30 Rock", the only other funny, well-written comedy where everybody is a bad actor. (I don't mean the acting's bad, but all the characters behave badly all the time.) These two shows appeal to viewers with the same warped sense of humor, and while there are enough of them to make one show a hit, there can't be enough to sustain two shows airing opposite each other. (It was less than bright when NBC ran "30 Rock" at 8pm, up against "Big Bang", earlier this year, and "Big Bang" uses a kinder, gentler style of humor.) The only hope is that NBC, in its infinite cluelessness, will shuffle "30 Rock" to still another time slot that doesn't directly compete with either Chuck Lorre show. But then, it is NBC.
May 17, 2012   |  Reply
Sally W.
I could be skeptical about "Elementary," but I'm eager to see Jonny Lee Miller back on American tv, and, in his real accent! (I liked him on "Eli Stone," and he did a great job playing American there & I'm a sucker for more Holmes). It's not quite the first time that Watson has been a woman, by the way. This cast (Aidan Quinn and Lucy Liu!) looks strong, but we have seen the American Holmes and Watson in the 21st Century via Hugh Laurie's House and Robert Sean Leonard's Wilson; so my real question is: will this new show have strong and original plots? Also, it's funny to me that "Made In Jersey" continues the trend of Brits playing Americans (but Laurie as House _in Jersey_ has been done; at least it's a woman lawyer this time!). I hope this show won't over-emphasize big law firm snobbery - it is very possible for a former prosecutor to join a firm and be taken seriously (at least in NYC, I'd think so). Plus scenes filmed at my undergrad alma mater of Columbia always entertain me!
May 16, 2012   |  Reply
David Bianculli
I agree -- "Elementary" is something we need to see full length to decide fairly, even as a first impression. The devil, there, really is in the details.
May 19, 2012
Never watched "Will & Grace," probably won't spend time with "Partners." I hope Aidan Quinn has better luck with "Elementary" than he did with the last British transplant he was in, "Prime Suspect." I'm such a Holmes fan, I'll likely tune in. When I first saw mention of "Vegas," I thought there was some sort of glitch in the Matrix (hey, Carrie-Ann Moss), but with Dennis Quaid and Michael Chiklis, it could be good. "Made in Jersey" smells like "Fairly Legal." One of those is enough.
May 16, 2012   |  Reply
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