Even as audiences continue to fragment in this multiplatform world, there’s no question that broadcast network television has still got game — and lots of it.
Perhaps the argument for the desirability of network TV was most succinctly made by CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl and Senior Executive Vice President of Programming Thom Sherman as they opened the Eye’s session at the Television Critics Association summer press tour last week in Beverly Hills.
“I think there is an excitement to what we offer in terms of being on every week. A lot of producers like that. There’s a rhythm and excitement to that, being present throughout the year versus all of your shows dropping in one weekend — and you are never heard from again,” said Kahl, after announcing that CBS had lured David E. Kelley back to broadcast television for “The Lincoln Lawyer,” slated for the 20-21 season.
“When you are on a big broadcast network like CBS where your show is on every week, as Kelly said, the conversation continues and continues and continues,” Sherman said. “When you are on one of the other places, the conversation is very brief, and then people move on to other things until that show might come back. So I think we offer a great place for great shows.“
Here are some of the programming highlights CBS presented during its TCA day:
Robert and Michelle King are returning to the broadcast network after their success on CBS All Access with “The Good Fight” and previously on the network with “The Good Wife.”
“Evil” has nothing in common with their previous shows. It stars Katja Herberts, Mike Colter, Aasif Mandvi and Michael Emerson in a psychological mystery that looks at the origins of evil, how social media has changed the definition of it and the line between science and religion. It premieres September 26. While the first episode deals with an apparent demonic possession, the topics of each episode will be varied and there won’t be pat endings like there are in a procedural.
““I think the show is trying to avoid the binary… What we wanted to do is explore how social media has changed in terms of what is evil and how evil has moved from one person to another… We are making that a real focus, especially in this first season, how social media has basically changed the definitions,” said Robert King.
In an about-face from his previous heavy, intense and sometimes villainous roles, (see “Django Unchained,” “The Hateful Eight,” “Justified” and my personal favorite– his turn as a transvestite prostitute in “Sons of Anarchy”) Walton Goggins toplines “The Unicorn,” which has its own elements of intensity but is basically a comedy about a widower who is picking up the pieces of his life after the death of his wife. Oh, and he’s a dad– and the object of desire of a number of women in his community.
“I just go where the material is and where the best writing is,” Goggins said. “And that’s kind of what predicated the decisions that I’ve made over the course of my career. And when this came along I just fell deeply in love with him and with his struggles and I fell in love with his daughters and I fell in love with his friends and this community. For me, I’m a little tired of irony and I’m at a place in my life at 48 years old where kindness and sentimentality and being earnest are things that are very important to me. And this show kind of spoke to all of that… it just touched me in a way that was deep and meaningful.”
Executive produced by Bill Martin and Mike Schiff, who based it on the experiences of a mutual friend, “The Unicorn” co-stars Rob Corddry, Michaela Watkins, Omar Miller and Maya Lin Robinson. It premieres September 26 after “Young Sheldon.”
“Carol’s Second Act” stars Patricia Heaton who also executive produces the comedy about a woman in her 50s who plays a medical school intern – and imparts the wisdom she’s obtained to her much younger associates. At this point in her life, she’s already retired from a teaching career, raised her children and gotten a divorce.
Created by Emily Halpern and Sarah Haskins, the series will be one of the few on television to deal with challenges of older working women.
‘This is an idea and a project very close to our hearts,” said Halpern. “It lets us combine something one thing that’s always been very important for me and Sarah, which is it lets us put women front and center in funny comedic roles with an idea that we love, that of second acts, the idea that a person can reinvent him or herself at any age and at an time.”
For Heaton, the time was right. “So this idea was so perfect when the gals [Haskins and Halpern] came along, so it was a while after ‘The Middle’ had finished, maybe a year even, and so I had time to feel those feelings that Carol was feeling, and it’s been interesting to go on this journey with everyone and with Carol and explore that,” she said. “And it’s interesting because I think it’s important at any time in your life to keep challenging yourself.”
Here comes the judge in a way you’ve never seen a robed figure in “All Rise,” along with attendant prosecutors and public defenders, set in the Los Angeles legal system. The story centers around newly appointed Judge Lola Carmichael (Simone Missick) who immediately starts pushing the boundaries of the bench.
“It was driven by the idea that the justice system was built for and meant to serve the client. That’s what came together in my head with my love of ensemble drama and broadcast television,” said creator Greg Spottiswood. “I love big-tent ensemble dramas. I thought we’d bring these two things together and bring a new lens to the judicial system.”
Chuck Lorre is back with a comedy unlike his previous outings, “Bob (Hearts) Abishola.”
It’s the story of a salesman who has a heart attack and falls in love with his hospital nurse, played by Folake Olowofoyeku, who has emigrated to the United States from Nigeria. Lorre developed the concept with London-based comedian Gina Yashere, who also recurs as a character named Kemi.
“The story we wanted to tell is about the greatness of first-generation immigrants, about the focus and discipline, the hard work, rigorous, rigorous honesty that goes with coming here and grabbing ahold of the American dream. So the premise of the series is immigrants make America great,” said Lorre, who then whipped out a yellow baseball cap with the insignia “IMAG” (Immigrants Make America Great).
“Yes, there is a romance here that will take a long time to play out. We’re in no hurry to do that part,” Lorre said. “The story here, people come to this country and work their asses off to make a life for themselves and their family. That’s a story worth telling.” CBS All Access has stories worth telling. Launched in 2014, it was the first network direct to consumer streaming offering and now boasts a catalog of 12,000 episodes and movies and a full slate of original series.
Among the new offerings, “Why Women Kill,” created by Marc Cherry and starring Lucy Liu, Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Ginnifer Goodwin in three separate stories set in three different decades but all taking place in the same house and all involving infidelity – and murder. Their husbands are played by Jack Davenport, Sam Jaeger and Reid Scott. Cherry, well known for previous shows including “Desperate Housewives” and “Devious Maids,” hinted that the killer and the murder may not necessarily be one of the main cast.
“Tell Me a Story” goes into its second season with Kevin Williamson at the helm in a tale based on “Beauty and the Beast” that is set in Nashville. “What I love about Nashville is it’s not the city that you think it is, nor the way I thought it was,” Williamson said. “I always think of it as country music, a place near Graceland where my mom liked to go. And then I get to Nashville, and it’s very hip and happening. Every genre of music is there, and it’s just this beautiful city I’ve fallen in love with. I’m thinking I want to live there.”