CBS' New Show Trailers: A Critic's Ranking

The network on Wednesday presented the first looks at 'Murphy Brown' and 'Magnum P.I.,' plus several shows that aren't based on decades-old IP, at its upfront presentation.
Monty Brinton/CBS
'Welcome to the Neighborhood'

Time for your regular reminder that over the next four days, I'll be giving my quick reactions to the trailers presented to advertisers in New York City. These aren't formal reviews. How could they be? I haven't seen the darned shows. They're just gut responses to sales pitches. If advertisers can pony up billions based on these clips, I can tell you if they're good or bad. My annual Take Me to the Pilots series will begin in a month and then real reviews will start in September. It's a marathon, not a sprint.

CBS likes to laugh.

CBS laughs at all of your angels dancing on the head of a pin "We're No.1" demo qualifications. They just get up onstage and say they're TV's most-watched network, because 15 out of the last 16 years, they have been. Heck, CBS has already declared overall victory for next season and with the Super Bowl plus its regular lineup, guess what? It is going to win next season overall, barring something truly unforeseen. 

They also laugh at the various networks that started late and ran long with their upfront presentations to advertisers. On Wednesday, CBS started basically at 4 p.m. ET and they were done less than 100 minutes later, and that was even with appearances by Stephen Colbert (funny) and James Corden (woefully unfunny) and the time that had to be dedicated to letting the audience give Les Moonves a standing ovation.

CBS didn't have a cable sibling to cede time to, but the network ran some CBS All-Access clips just to fill time, since they only had five or six trailers to screen.

Let's get down to the CBS trailer rankings, at least a few of which are for shows that aren't remakes or reboots!

6) Murphy Brown | This reboot is only last. What they had to show wasn't really a trailer, since they haven't shot a pilot. They want the show to feel current. Fair enough. Instead, they offered a "Whatever happened to ...?" behind-the-scenes set of interviews with Murphy, Frank Fontana, Miles Silverberg and Corky Sherwood about what they've been up to since they left FYI. The interviews also introduced Tyne Daly as Phil's sister and new bar proprietor and Nik Dodani as Pat Patel, whose job it will be to make fun of "the olds." No, literally. That seems to be what his job will be. I desperately hope the show gives him something else to do, because "cluelessness about millennials" is one of CBS' least admirable characteristics, and if a major component of the new Murphy Brown is going to be the token young characters mocking the original castmembers for using AOL, they might as well have just rebooted The Great Indoors.

5) Happy Together | For all of the talk of how in-demand Damon Wayans Jr. was this pilot season and how this was the big winner in the Damon Wayans Jr. sweepstakes, I'll admit that I expected something that looked significantly funnier. I like Wayans. I really like Amber Stevens West (and the sheer number of The Carmichael Show stars back in primetime in the fall). But these clips looked mighty stale. Like there's a British pop star trying to teach a stick-in-the-mud couple to be cool again, but there's no indication anybody taught the British pop star how to be cool in the first place. It's like the couple is from the early '90s and the pop star is from the early '00s and nobody knows how stale it all feels? Dunno.

4) FBI | Missy Peregrym went off to do a Canadian police procedural for a long time and I've missed the Reaper star on my TV. I'm not sure how long I'm likely to stick with this, though. The trailer looks like a Dick Wolf show, which it is. The performances all looked a bit wooden. The dialogue sounds wooden. But I really like the New York City texture and the supporting cast, especially Jeremy Sisto and Dallas Roberts in what I assume is just a pilot guest turn, looks fine. Airing after NCIS, this will draw a big audience and it doesn't much need me.

3) Magnum P.I. | I don't know if this looks or feels a lot like the Magnum of my youth. It does, however, look a lot like CBS' new Hawaii Five-0, and that's not a coincidence. At this point, we all know Justin Lin does well with pilots and the trailer featured a couple big stunts that they'll never be able to replicate again, plus gorgeous Hawaiian scenery that's definitely more reproducible. I've got no objections at all to Jay Hernandez as Magnum, but without a mustache or conspicuous chest hair, nothing about him instantly screams "Magnum!" Sexy Butt-Kicking Woman Higgins (Perdita Weeks) seems like an OK variation on a theme, and I usually tend to enjoy Zachary Knighton in things. This fits the CBS brand. It will do well. Whether I watch more than a half-dozen episodes is unclear.

2) God Friended Me | It's basically Living Biblically, which failed on CBS, meets Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, which failed on ABC. (iTouched by an iAngel?) Remember Angel From Hell? Me neither. That's another show this looks a bit like. The use of social media instantly feels ridiculously out of touch, but I highly doubt CBS cares. Basically, there's going to be a mix of sincerity/spirituality and humor and it feels like it might lean more towards the former, which would be how it would be different from Kevin (Probably) Saves the World. Executive producer Greg Berlanti did something similar, with a good balance, on Eli Stone, so maybe he knows how to make this genre work. What interests me is that Brandon Micheal Hall was likable on The Mayor and Violett Beane was likable on The Flash, and I can probably enjoy them being likable together. Not excited. But curious. 

1) The Neighborhood | Cedric the Entertainer is the ostensible star, but I'm more interested in the show for Max Greenfield, Dreama Walker, Sheaun McKinney and especially Tichina Arnold. I'm assuming that Arnold is such a force-of-nature comic star that she won't let herself become the latest in a sad string of arms-crossed CBS wives, though you wouldn't have optimism based on the trailer, which also still featured Josh Lawson instead of Greenfield. Although the punchlines in the trailer were CBS-level broad, the pedigree of the stars made me laugh a couple times. If this were on ABC, I think I'd have a lot of enthusiasm, because that network knows how to do family sitcoms. On CBS? I'm cautiously optimistic.

Only one more day to go! CBS tomorrow!

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