New Series Report Cards

The prime-time TV season has been underway long enough to give us a good handle on how each new show is performing.  The following series receive a grade of B or higher.  The dramas have one thing in common: There is nothing else like them on television.

Grade A  
“This is Us” (NBC) – No sex, no violence, no bad language, just well-acted, well-written stories.  Nothing else like it on television.  Great family show about three siblings (one adopted) and the parents who raised them (seen through flashbacks).  Highest-rated new series among Adults 18-49, and seems to be maintaining both its creative and ratings strength.

Grade A-
“Designated Survivor” (ABC) – Kiefer Sutherland shines as a lower-level cabinet member who suddenly becomes president when Congress is destroyed by a bomb during the State of the Union Address. Scary stuff in today’s world.  Political intrigue mixed with action.  Ratings have slipped a bit since its premiere, but it’s starting to stabilize, and is still performing well.



“Bull” (CBS) – Michael Weatherly, fresh off his long-running turn in “NCIS,” portrays the founder of a successful trial-consulting firm.  Already starting to get boring as he wins every case, but fans of the show know what to expect.  Highest-rated new show among total viewers, and holds between 80% and 90% of its “NCIS” lead-in audience (depending on the demo).  You can’t ask for much more than that.

Grade B+
“Lethal Weapon” (FOX) – Reboot of the hit movie franchise teams Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans as the buddy cop duo, Riggs and Murtaugh.  Good, fun, mindless entertainment.  Hovering near the top 10 among Adults 18-49, and has so far been holding its audience from week to week.  Currently Fox’s second-highest-rated show (behind “Empire”).

Grade B
“Kevin Can Wait” (CBS) – Kevin James once again manages to get a much thinner and much more attractive sitcom wife.  He does continue to have a certain appeal, and like his previous show, “King of Queens,” performs well for CBS.  

“Timeless” (NBC) – Mysterious criminal (or is he?) steals time machine to change the past and destroy America as we know it.  An unusual team — a scientist, soldier, and history professor — are tasked with traveling back in time to critical events and saving the future.  The pilot was better than I expected, as is the series.  It has declined slightly each week, and loses a lot of viewers from its “The Voice” lead-in, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it moved or replaced.  Probably just depends on how much NBC likes it.

“Speechless” (ABC) – Minnie Driver is excellent as a mom who will do anything for her husband and kids – especially her oldest, a high-school student with cerebral palsy.  Funny and eye-opening.  Holds its lead-in audience from “The Goldbergs,” and has held steady since its debut.

“Pitch” (FOX) – I’m not placing it here because of its strong ratings, but rather because it is one of the best shows on broadcast TV (and my 17-year-old son loves it).  Kylie Bunbury in a star-making turn as a young pitcher who becomes the first woman to play Major League Baseball. Not at all compatible with its “Rosewood” lead-in, but it has held onto its relatively small audience since its premiere.  Partnership with MLB might keep it on until it can find more viewers. It’s worth it.

“MacGyver” (CBS) – With nothing but a paper clip, his trusty Swiss army knife, and his wit, a young MacGyver escapes perilous situations week after week, in this re-imagining of the 1980s series.  Fits in with CBS’s Friday lineup, and is a good lead-in for “Hawaii Five-0.” Its ratings have been solid and steady for the past few weeks, and there’s no reason to expect this to change.

“American Housewife” (ABC), “The Good Place” (NBC) – Holds most of their lead-in audiences from “The Middle,” and “Superstore,” respectively, so I guess I have to include them here. Ratings for both have been steady.

Some mid-season series I’m looking forward to include Fox’s “24: Legacy,” “Star,” “Shots Fired” (limited series), and “Prison Break.”  The pilots for all four were excellent.

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