Monday, September 25, 2017

CBS Fall Pilot Reviews: Young Sheldon and Me, Myself & I, Both Premiere Tonight (Sept. 25)

Young Sheldon

Young Sheldon - Thursdays at 8:30PM ET/PT on CBS
Special Premiere Monday, September 25, 2017 at 8:30PM ET/PT


by Vincent

Young Sheldon follows 9-year-old Sheldon Cooper, a once-in-a-generation mind capable of advanced mathematics and science – but that isn't always helpful in East Texas, a land where church and football are king. And while the vulnerable, gifted and somewhat na├»ve Sheldon deals with the world, his very normal family must find a way to deal with him.

Cast Details:

Iain Armitage as Sheldon
Jim Parsons as Adult Sheldon (Voice)
Lance Barber as George Sr.
Montana Jordan as Georgie Jr.
Raegan Revord as Missy
Zoe Perry as Mary

Iain Armitage (Sheldon) is a young actor best known for his role on the popular HBO mini-series Big Little Lies. He has also appeared on Law & Order: SVU and in the film The Glass Castle.

Jim Parsons (voice of Adult Sheldon) is best known for his role as "Adult" Sheldon on the hit comedy The Big Bang Theory (which Young Sheldon is a prequel of). He also has a long-running Broadway career, recently starring in the play The Act of God.

Lance Barber (George Sr.) is a veteran TV actor who has appeared in many shows over the years, most notably as a cast member on HBO's cult hit The Comeback. He has also appeared in shows such as Faking It, black-ish and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Montana Jordan (Georgie Jr.) is a young, nascent actor – Young Sheldon will be his first major role.

Reagan Reyord (Missy) is a young actress who has guest starred on shows such as Modern Family, Grace and Frankie and Teachers.

Zoe Perry (Mary) is an actress with a long list of TV credits, including roles on Scandal, NCIS and The Family. She also portrayed Young Jackie on Roseanne.

Pilot Plot:

"Pilot" (Airs September 25 at 8:30PM ET)

The pilot episode revolved around 9-year-old Sheldon's first day at high school. His father, George, is struggling to find his way as a high school football coach and as father to a boy he doesn't understand. Sheldon's mother, Mary, fiercely protects and nurtures her son in a town where he just doesn't fit in. Sheldon's older brother, Georgie, does the best he can in high school, but it's tough to be cool when you're in the same classes with your odd 9-year-old brother. Sheldon's twin sister, Missy, sometimes resents all the attention Sheldon gets, but she also remains the one person who can reliably tell Sheldon the truth. All of these people help guide him through a difficult first day of school.

Analysis:

I’ll get this out of the way first: I'm not a fan of The Big Bang Theory. I've seen enough of it that I'm familiar with the characters and the concept, since it's such a hugely popular sitcom – I wanted to see what all of the hype was about, but unfortunately I generally find the show to be too over-the-top in its humor, and I find Parsons' portrayal of Sheldon to be kind of unbearable most of the time. So I can't say I went into Young Sheldon expecting to like it all that much. I expected it to be basically a carbon copy of its parent show, complete with obvious set-ups and punchlines and a complete lack of subtlety. I was surprised, then, that Young Sheldon is actually quite different from The Big Bang Theory in a lot of ways. First off, the show drops Big Bang's multi-camera and laugh track set-up for a single-camera Wonder Years vibe, complete with a narration by grown-up Parsons. The show is clearly trying for something very different than The Big Bang Theory. A lot of the time, it seems like it genuinely wants to be a heartfelt, borderline sad, even a little wistful story of a young boy whose gifted but struggles to fit into the town he lives in. And there are times when it succeeds! Most of those times involve the mother-son relationship between Sheldon and Mary, which actually feels genuine, thanks to strong performances from both Perry and Armitidge. At its best, Young Sheldon is a sweet and sad little show about a precocious little kid who's clearly going to leave his town and do great things, and a mom who's hanging onto him for as long as she can despite knowing that she's going to lose him eventually. Pepper in a surprisingly funny performance from Reyord as Sheldon's perpetually annoyed sister and Lance Barber doing a pretty good "over it all" dad role, and you'd have a decent little coming of age sitcom, one that could air alongside The Middle and The Goldbergs on ABC and no one would bat an eye.

Unfortunately, Young Sheldon often has to remember that, ultimately, it's a Big Bang Theory prequel. And say what you will about The Big Bang Theory, but the often mean-spirited and condescending tone of Adult Sheldon doesn't really fit in with the gentle, warm tone that Young Sheldon is going for. Every time Jim Parsons' narration ends a scene, or every time his holier-than-thou attitude comes through in the form of his younger self, any sweet vibes that Young Sheldon gives off are immediately shattered. The problem is, if you like The Big Bang Theory, you're probably going to be turned off by the fact that Young Sheldon is essentially nothing like its parent show most of the time, and will probably not want much to do with a low-key coming of age sitcom. If you dig that kind of vibe, then you'll probably be turned off by the grating catchphrase factory that the show wants to be when it's not that gentle coming of age sitcom. Young Sheldon feels towards between two shows right now, and while The Wonder Years for a new generation is the more appealing route, chances are it will wind up pandering to its Big Bang Theory origins more to survive the network television chopping block.

Conclusion:

There's a warm, bittersweet show about growing up in a place where you don't belong lurking inside of Young Sheldon, but it's obstructed by the show's need to pander to its parent show's audience, in full display whenever Parsons interrupts with one of his painfully unfunny and often mean-spirited voice-overs. If Young Sheldon ever dropped the Big Bang side of its occasion, it might have a chance at becoming a truly sweet little show, but considering it's, well, a Big Bang spin-off, the chances of that happening seems low. Still, there are glimmers of this show that are worthwhile, and it's a lot less cloying and more thoughtful than you'd expect a Big Bang Theory prequel to be. Plus, if you're a Big Bang superfan, it's a fun and sweet origin story for a character you've grown to love over the years.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 3.5/5
Funniness: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Monday, September 25, 2017 at 8:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:

  • CBS.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Young Sheldon Photo Gallery

    Preview:





  • Me, Myself & I

    Me, Myself & I - Mondays at 9:30PM ET/PT on CBS
    Premieres Monday, September 25, 2017 at 9:30PM ET/PT

    by Skees

    Alex Riley can't seem to catch a break. He's well adjusted in life, or so it seems, but then something always comes crashing down on him. At age 14, life is well at home with his single mother, that is, until she decides to remarry, move him across the country, and introduce him to a new stepfather and stepbrothers. At age 40, he's happily married with a daughter, but that happy marriage goes sour when he least suspects it. At age 65, he's ready to retire and enjoy the retired life... unless he has a heart attack or something (you know he does). But at the end of the day, all of these stages come together as one piece in Me, Myself & I.

    Cast Details:

    Bobby Moynihan as Alex Riley (age 40)
    Jack Dylan Grazer as Alex Riley (age 14)
    John Larroquette as Alex Riley (age 65)
    Brian Unger as Ron 
    Jaleel White as Darryl
    Kelen Coleman as Abby
    Skylar Gray as Young Abby
    Christopher Paul Richards as Justin
    Mandell Maughan as Maggie
    Reylenn Caster as Young Nori Sterling
    Sharon Lawrence as Eleanor Sterling


    Bobby Moynihan (Alex Riley) is best known for his work on Saturday Night Live, where he appeared for nine seasons. He has appeared in a few movies, as well as guest roles on 30 Rock, Girls, and Portlandia. Additionally, he can be heard as the voice of Louie on the Disney XD reboot of Ducktales.

    Jack Dylan Grazer (younger Alex Riley) is a relative newcomer to acting, but has already appeared in one prominent movie: the feature film version of Stephen King's It, playing Eddie Kaspbrak. He is the nephew of producer Brian Grazer.

    John Larroquette (older Alex Riley) is perhaps best known for his role of Dan Fielding on the NBC sitcom Night Court. But his career has been more than just Night Court, as he also had his own sitcom, The John Larroquette Show, in addition to roles in series such as Boston Legal and The Librarians. He also starred in the short-lived 2002 sitcom Happy Family.

    Brian Unger (Ron) has appeared in series such as It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Baby Daddy, but he is also known as a commentator, having been a contributor for The Daily Show (pre-John Stewart) and also is a commentator on the web series, The Young Turks.

    Jaleel White (Darryl) is, of course, best known for his role as Steve Urkel on Family Matters. He also appeared in the short-lived UPN series Grown Ups, and did the voice of Sonic the Hedgehog in the animated series.

    Kelen Coleman (Abby) has appeared in Big Little Lies, Men at Work, The Newsroom, and The Mindy Project, but her biggest role has been on the CBS series The McCarthys.

    Skylar Gray (young Abby) is another (relative) newcomer to TV, though she has previously appeared in the series Married.

    Christopher Paul Richards (Justin) is another young actor, who previously appeared in the Showtime series Billions.

    Mandell Maughan (Maggie) has appeared in the Seeso original series Bajillion Dollar Propertie$, as well as episodes of The Young and the Restless, Ghost Whisperer, Sean Saves the World, and The Millers.

    Reylynn Caster (young Nori Sterling) is yet another newcomer to acting, and has previously appeared on an episode of Speechless.

    Sharon Lawrence (Eleanor Sterling) is best known for her role in NYPD Blue, and has also appeared in series such as Ladies Man, Fired Up, Drop Dead Diva, and others.


    Pilot Plot:

    "Pilot" (Airs August 23 at 9:30PM ET)

    In the pilot episode, we get to meet Alex Riley. But there isn't just one Alex. There is 14-year-old Alex (Jack Dylan Grazer), 40-year-old Alex (Bobby Moynihan), and 65-year-old Alex (John Larroquette). At each stage of this life, they all have great ambitions to do great things... and they're all being dealt the short end of the stick as well. 14-year-old Alex is being forced to live in a new town with a new stepbrother and stepfather. 40-year-old Alex is happily married until he comes home to his wife and finds an ambulance parked in the driveway (it's worse than you think). 65-year-old Alex has just had a heart attack. But each version of Alex finds that a funny thing about life is how things work out, and even when you think you know what's going to happen next, you really don't know.

    Analysis:

    From what I saw in the pilot, I'm optimistic about this series. One somewhat unusual thing that this series has going for it is that they didn't skimp on the casting at all. While Jack Dylan Grazer, who plays the youngest Alex, is a relative newcomer to television, they put two comedy veterans into the roles of the other roles of Alex. Bobby Moynihan is best known for his role on Saturday Night Live, where he appeared for the past nine seasons. And John Larroquette is known for his role of Dan Fielding on the Night Court. They didn't even stop there, as they even cast Jaleel White (Urkel from Family Matters, of course) for the role of Darryl.

    Something that slightly surprised me, though, is that this isn't exactly a laugh out loud goofball type of comedy, which was the first thing I expected when I saw that Bobby Moynihan and John Larroquette were involved. Looking back at a lot of the sitcoms that Saturday Night Live cast members went onto after leaving the series, the actors and actresses have had a tendency to play very goofy and offbeat characters (one very notable exception: Jane Curtin in Kate & Allie). That isn't to say that Alex, at any stage of his life is not a bit goofy or offbeat. But for the most part, he's just an average guy dealing with the quirks in his life.  I think what's perhaps even odder is how hard it is to look at John Larroquette and not see Dan Fielding. Maybe in time, as we get used to these characters, we'll be able to separate them out. It took me a while to separate Ed O'Neill's two famous sitcom characters (Al Bundy and Jay Pritchett) from one another as well, but eventually they became two distinct people.

    When I heard about the concept of this series, I immediately suspected it would be confusing, with all of the going back and forth in time. It would especially be confusing since we would have to deal with new groups of characters in each of those time periods, so that means a very large cast. But I can safely say after watching the pilot that they handle the transitions through time rather well, and often in a very clever manner. And as far as the large cast (which I imagine will get larger as the series goes on), it doesn't take much time to figure out what role the characters play in Alex's life. I don't think this will cause any problems or confusion at all.


    Conclusion:

    This really isn't a bad show. It's clear that CBS is desperately trying to branch out from being known as a network that is only about multi camera sitcoms with a laugh track, and so far, they've had limited success with that, specifically Life in Pieces, which hasn't exactly been a huge breakout hit but has floated along nicely. I don't know that this will be the show that will be a breakout hit that'll finally allow them to achieve their goal of having a successful single camera sitcom, but it's a good effort at least, and it is something that is different from other series in a good way. 

    Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

    Watchability: 4/5
    Funniness: 2/5
    Overall: 4/5

    Discuss the show after you watch it on Monday, September 25 2017 at 9:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

    Related Links:


  • CBS.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Me, Myself & I Photo Gallery



    Preview:


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