Squawk Box: New Fall TV

New Shows:  Fall means the usual avalanche of new shows across the networks and while it's almost impossible to watch all of them, I checked out a few episodes of the ones that drew my eye and this is what I've got. All Rise (CBS) is kind of an interesting change of pace for the whole idea of the 'courtroom drama.' Focusing on newly appointed Judge Lola Carmichael played by the excellent Simone Missick, lately Misty Knight on the Luke Cage and Iron Fist. There's a fish out of water aspect to this show that is kind of cool: she's trying to figure out how to be a Judge and there's CSI vet Marg Helgenberger floating around as a fellow judge who is all too ready to step in with helpful advice. I feel like there's a lot of growth potential with this show-- to be honest, I find a lot of it so far just sort of okay, but Missick is the kind of actor that can anchor a show and keep it going long enough for it to go through some growing pains and find it's feet. Whether this show goes the distance or not, you're going to see a lot more of her. Verdict: Check This One Out, See If You Like It.

Bluff City Law (NBC) might be my favorite of the new six-pack. Jimmy Smits stars as legendary Memphis Lawyer Elijah Strait, who brings his estranged daughter, Sydney Strait (Caitlin McGee) back to his firm after the death of his wife and her mother. Their firm built its reputation on fighting injustice, so they tend to represent the underdog in their courtroom cases. On the face of it, you have to ask: another law firm show? But Smits elevates just about every show he's in and this one is no exception and the rest of the cast is more than capable of playing at his level- it's less of a workplace drama and more of a family drama and the fact the balance tilts more toward the latter than the former works in its favor I think. Verdict: Watch A Few Of These and You'll Be Hooked. Bingeworthy.

Prodigal Son (Fox) I like Michael Sheen, but... man, I'm just not sure about this show. Tom Payne stars as Malcolm Bright is a criminal psychologist who uses his dark and twisted genius to help the NYPD solve crimes after he's fired from the FBI. He's got a manipulative and controlling mother (the always delightful Bellamy Young), an NYPD mentor (Lou Diamond Phillips) and his serial killer Dad (Michael Sheen) who wants to bond by helping him solve crimes for the NYPD. Bright has a whole closet full of demons that he's fighting but his insights do help catch bad guys. (Also, Gilmore Girls alum Keiko Agena is in this show as a forensic specialist of some kind I think, so you can't complain about the cast.) I'll probably keep watching this for a bit because the cast for this show is deep and awesome, but this feels like a mash-up of a lot of different serial killer shows that we've seen before and there's a sense of inevitability that hangs over this show from the word go: Bright is fighting his demons so hard he's bound to lose at some point- and then what? Verdict: Watch for the cast, because it's awesome. But I don't know...

Stumptown (ABC): Cobie Smulders stars as Dex Parios, a military vet returned from Afghanistan with PTSD and a talent for getting herself into trouble and, she discovers, a talent for solving problems the police can't. She's got a gambling habit is struggling to pay her bills and take car of her brother Ansel, who works at her friend Grey's bar, the Bad Alibi. If Jimmy Smits and Bluff City Law are the best of the six pack so far, I'd put Stumptown more or less just behind them. This show is charming, the cast is excellent and so far it's been entertaining as all giddy-up. Smulders is joined by New Girl alum Jake Johnson as well as Camryn Manheim, Michael Ealy, Adrian Martinez and Tantoo Cardinal rounding out the main cast. Verdict: Her beaten up old car with a tape deck that's perpetually stuck on a mix tape of hits from the 70s and 80s makes this worth watching all by itself. Happily, the cast alone makes this almost appointment television.

Batwoman (CW): I think we might be approaching the point of maximum saturation on the whole Superhero show thing, but if any network has cornered the market on them, it's the CW. Set in a Gotham where Batman has been missing in action for three years, Kate Kane (Ruby Rose) returns home after a long absense to solve the mystery of what happened to her cousin, Bruce and to help her father figure out who the mysterious Alice is and why her gang is terrifying Gotham. One thing leads to another (as it always does) and Kate finds out who Bruce really was when he wasn't at work and takes up the mantle of Batwoman to start bringing some justice back to the streets of Gotham. Adding a Bat-Show of some kind to the CW's pantheon of superheroes was probably inevitable at some point and while certain segments of the internet did their usual prediction that this show was going to be, well, bad, it's actually kind of refreshing. With Batman safely 'on hiatus' in parts unknown, Kate Kane more or less gets to inhabit the role in her own way and with her own style. If this show goes the distance I hope they get to play with some classic Batman villains at some point and if Bruce does show back up, I hope it's a few seasons in-- when the two Batpeople can facc each other as equals. Verdict: More appealing than Gotham, but we might be nudging up against the outer limit of the number of Superhero shows television can handle. But if you like Batman, you'll dig this one. 

Nancy Drew (CW): I'm always a sucker for a good gumshoe story and Nancy Drew the character is iconic enough that I was always going to tune into check out a few episodes. In this case, Nancy is post-high school/college-ish age and going steady and sleeping with her boyfriend (which was a surprise, but not a shocking one. After all, Nancy as a character strikes me as smart, confident and knowing exactly what she wants.) She gets swept up into not one, but two mysteries- a murder to solve and the long buried secrets that may or may not involve her now widowed father. It's intriguing... but I kept thinking throughout the first couple of episodes: this town is in the same universe as Riverdale, isn't it? Verdict: Man, I don't know... Nancy's been around this long it's probably foolish to bet against her, but this feels like, well, Riverdale. With different characters.


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