Stream it or skip it?


So many CBS proceedings lately have been heavy on heavy stuff. Cops doing cop stuff, lawyers doing lawyer stuff, doctors doing doctor stuff. There has been more reliance on the case of the week than on the chemistry between the people solving the cases. It’s almost like the network forgot shows like the original Magnum IPWhere Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Jake and the Fatmanor even Diagnosis Murder, all of which emphasized character over procedure. Their new comedy-drama So help me Todd is reminiscent of those fun shows from the 80s and 90s, with the usual 2020s twists.

Opening shot: In a supermarket, a man speaks into his watch.

The essential: Todd Wright (Skylar Astin) is at the supermarket hoping to catch someone who perceives a disability, well, who isn’t disabled. A private detective who lost his license two years ago due to inappropriate behavior by his business/romantic partner, he’s done gigs like this insurance job to make ends meet.

He lives with his sister Allison (Madeline Wise), but their mother, Margaret Wright (Marcia Gay Harden), an associate lawyer at a large law firm, doesn’t want her « aimless » son to mop up the family members. She has a lot of influence over Todd, and he lets her know how particular and controlling she can be. He is seen as the « black sheep » of the family, who does not dutifully go in the direction Margaret leads them, and just does what he knows he is good at, which is to be a IP

But in the middle of a move, Margaret’s second husband, Harry (Mark Moses), disappears. Todd uses his investigative skills – including clues he sees on social media – to discover he was picking up his mail from an address 40 miles from their home in Portland. At the same time, he gets bad vibes from a client Margaret is defending in a murder case.

As he investigates Harry’s disappearance, which somehow leads him to a magician’s shop, he realizes that a surprise witness whom the prosecution did not tell Margaret before asking for a suspension due to a fake injury is probably someone who has video evidence. of his client on the premises. As both investigations come to a head, Margaret realizes that Todd is good at her job and hires him as an in-house investigator while her regular investigator is on maternity leave.

Picture: Michael Courtney/CBS

What shows will this remind you of? We’re stepping back in television history a bit, but the parent-child vibe and light touch of So help me Todd takes us back to the 80s mystery shows that had these elements, like the 1984-86 series mad as a fox. Tone also matches other USA Network tariffs Monk / White Collar phase. Humor also reminds us The good wife and The good fightwho rely on light moments to balance the heavier ones.

Our opinion : We gotta be honest: CBS’s summer promotions for So help me Todd did the show a disservice. It made the talented cast, especially the Oscar-winning Harden, seem like they were stuck in a lame CBS procedural that could last seven years, but had plenty of script holes and logical leaks that would sway viewers the most demanding to look elsewhere.

Yes, the driver Todd to all that. But what it also has is plenty of charm and a few funny moments that show the show is going to lean as much on personality as it does on the cases themselves. It starts with Harden, who has become very good at playing picky, controlling, powerful women in comedic roles, and Margaret is right in that wheelhouse. She didn’t get where she is without having complete control, and that includes controlling Todd, Allison, and their invisible brother Lawrence.

It’s that conflict, based on creator Scott Pendergast’s own life (Elizabeth Klaviter is the showrunner), where she finally sees Todd in action and might move a bit while he uses some of his, er, investigative methods. risks that are at the heart of this show. . We’ve seen Skylar Astin on too many shows over the past decade not to think he’s going to bring his own charms to the role of Todd. Their characters’ opposing personalities, but their obvious love for each other, create great chemistry that builds on a ready-made backstory, which is something we always love to see in a pilot.

As the series progresses and the uniqueness of the setup fades, it will be up to Astin and Harden to carry the show as Todd and Margaret figure out how to work together and how their relationship could evolve. There’s potential in Todd playing with uptight office administrator Lyle (Tristen J. Winger), as well as a rekindling with Susan (Inga Schlingmann) and an old flame who now works for the company. But the heart of the series will be Harden and Astin, and we like what we’re seeing so far.

Sex and skin: None.

Farewell shot: On Todd’s first day as an employee of Margaret’s company, she tells him to change shifts and ties, and take the bus so he doesn’t drive his shitty car to the office. She goes to lunch with Allison, and he notices that a photo of the two of them from his childhood is in his office. « I’ll wear the shirt, I’ll wear the tie, but I will not take the bus,” he says to his mother as she walks with Allison towards the elevator.

Sleeping Star: Mark Moses’ character Harry is positioned as if he’s just in the pilot and nothing else, but it looks like he’ll be back at some point, and it’ll be fun to see him not play a jagoff business tense for the first time in a long time.

The most pilot line: Todd’s brother-in-law, Chet (Thomas Cadrot), comes over for family dinner without her husband Lawrence, pushes his daughter into Uncle Todd’s arms, and says he wants a beer. When Allison tells Todd to close the door, Todd says, « I want a human being! »

Our call: SPREAD IT. The jury is still out on whether the procedural part of So help me Todd will always be an important part of the show. But the chemistry between Harden and Astin, and the deep story possibilities the Wright family could generate, more than make up for the lack of procedural weight.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and technology, but he’s not fooling himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, Salon,, VanityFair.comFast Company and elsewhere.


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