The broadcast networks have nearly 20 shows debuting this fall, including David Boreanaz’s SEAL drama, the adventures of Fox’s Gifted mutants, ABC’s rapping Mayor and a soapy new Dynasty. To help you prep for it all, TVLine is offering First Impressions of the not-for-review pilots.
First up on our list….
THE SHOW | CBS’ Young Sheldon (Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c, premiering Nov. 2)
THE COMPETITION | ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, NBC’s Thursday Night Football, Fox’s Gotham, NBC’s Great News and The CW’s Supernatural
THE CAST | Iain Armitage (Big Little Lies), Zoe Perry (Scandal), Lance Barber (The Comeback), Montana Jordan and Raegan Revord; Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) narrates.
THE SET-UP | What must The Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon Cooper have been like as a precocious, pedantic adolescent? This prequel, set in East Texas circa 1989, answers that question, with the boy genius about to enter high school… as a 9-year-old.
THE FIRST IMPRESSION | This single-camera offshoot of TV’s top-rated comedy was described at the Upfronts as “part Wonder Years, part Doogie Howser,” given its retro vibe and the preternatural intellect that makes Sheldon the odd (little) man out among his peers. And while the comparison is apt, it could also prove a bit jarring as a lead-out to its multi-cam, sitcommy sire, seeing as Young Sheldon‘s laughs are more subtle and not churned out at a joke-joke-jokey pace.
In fact, at first blush I would argue that Young Sheldon is stronger when its being sentimental, and that’s where its Wonder Years-like charm lies; the emotional weight of the pilot’s final sequence between Shelly and his dad kinda sneaks up you (and probably often will, given what we know about George Sr.’s ultimate fate). Which… is also another way of saying the pilot could stand to be funnier.
Armitage is excellent as a young Sheldon Cooper; I want to think he is purposely emulating some of Parsons’ mannerisms and speaking cadences (see: “Think, monkey, think” in the trailer below). Perry, meanwhile, is the real-life daughter of Laurie Metcalf aka adult Sheldon’s mom Mary, so the visual/vocal similarities there could not be more spot-on. Barber has a tough row to hoe as the dad who favors his older, football player son over the brainiac who wears bow ties.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE | CBS has claimed that this show not only tested well with Big Bang fans, but more interestingly also appealed to those who are not familiar with Sheldon, Leonard et al. Many a freshman laffer has benefited from the primo post-Bang time slot, so it stands to reason that an offshoot-by-design will prove the most perfect companion piece.