Rebooted Murphy Brown a gem of new TV season
LOS ANGELES — There’s more new television to watch than is humanly possible. But everyone has to make a time-allocation decision in the end, and that’s what we’re here to help with.
Consider the list below a tip sheet to get you going on the fall TV season. Each of the six shows has something of note to offer, and some have the potential to be season (or beyond) standouts. Happy viewing, and the snacks are on you.
The unexpected success of Roseanne last season (before its sudden implosion due to star Roseanne Barr) would be enough to make this revival intriguing as another onetime TV hit eager to prove its relevance.
The original CBS sitcom starring Candice Bergen as a broadcast TV news anchor and reporter was unabashedly in the middle of politics and social issues when it aired from 1988-98, including going toeto-toe with Vice-President Dan Quayle over unwed motherhood.
Creator Diane English has said it was the chance to weigh in on Trump-era politics that persuaded her to put Murphy back to work, this time on the cable news side and with a bone to pick about so-called “fake news.” She’s joined by her former colleagues including Corky (Faith Ford), Frank (Joe Regalbuto) and Miles (Grant Shaud).
The show debuts on Sept. 27.
The Amazon Prime Video drama series makes the cut even without virtue of an early screening, thanks both to its pedigree and ambitions. It was created, written, directed and produced by Matthew Weiner of Mad Men glory and marks his return to series TV after his Emmy-showered drama ended in 2015.
An eight-episode anthology series, The Romanoffs promises a kaleidoscope of tales about people who fancy themselves descendants of the royal Russian family that fell victim to revolution. The cast changes from episode to episode, starting with Marthe Keller and Aaron Eckhart in The Violet Hour and Corey Stoll and Kerry Bishe in The Royal We.
The Romanoffs was shot on location in Europe, the Americas and Asia. The first two episodes debut Oct. 12.
My Brilliant Friend
HBO’s first non-English language series is based on the internationally bestselling novel of the same name, the first of four books by Elena Ferrante. That’s a pen name for the author who’s remained anonymous, creating as much a sensation for that choice as for the acclaimed saga of two women starting in their 1950s childhood in Naples, Italy.
The production is impressive, from the casting of the actresses playing friends Elena and Lila as girls (newcomers Elisa Del Genio and Ludovica Nasti) and as teenagers (Margherita Mazzucco, Gaia Girace) to its re-creation of the tough, unforgiving neighbourhood that served as their incubator.
There’s fidelity to the novel overall in the episode provided, a promising start for the extended series that will adapt the novels in full and which, hopefully, will air here. This season’s eight episodes are coming in November (date to be announced).
Warriors of Liberty City
The Starz documentary series has the power of fiction and beyond, delving into American lives rarely seen on TV.
Miami’s disadvantaged Liberty City neighbourhood is home to a youth football program, founded by 2 Live Crew frontman and activist Luther “Uncle Luke” Campbell, that’s helped launch Antonio Brown, Teddy Bridgewater and others into NFL careers.
While the twin football controversies of kneeling and concussions play out at a distance, the series provides intimate glimpses of Liberty City Warriors players on and off the field as they pursue the distant dream of a pro career and, more immediately, a winning season.
Their grit is impressive and touching, but it’s framed by the burdens of poverty, violence and lack of educational opportunities. Campbell’s program provides academic tutoring and tries to instill a work ethic that can serve beyond football, but who else is rooting for them?
The six-episode series created and directed by Evan Rosenfeld had a powerful ally: LeBron James was among its executive producers. It debuts Sept. 16.
The Kids Are Alright
This comedy fits snugly into ABC’s ethnic-family folio that includes black-ish, The Goldbergs and Fresh Off the Boat. But the newcomer about a workingclass, Irish-Catholic family in the 1970s isn’t riding anyone’s coattails: it’s sharply written, charming and boasts laugh-out-loud scenes.
Created by Tim Doyle, whose background mirrors that of the fictional Clearys, The Kids Are Alright gives the lovingly strict parents of eight (well-cast) sons their dignity as well as foibles as they navigate parenthood in a tumultuous decade.
Mary McCormack and Michael Cudlitz are actors best known for drama but shine as mom and dad, with McCormack getting the best punchlines in the debut episode and delivering them with aplomb. A sample: “We do not have the wherewithal in this family for any of you kids to be special.” Begins Oct. 16.
The Little Drummer Girl
For fans of the gripping, hugely entertaining The Night Manager that aired on AMC in 2016, there’s reason for celebration: executive producers of the Emmy Award-winning series based on a John le Carre novel are behind this le Carre adaptation.
The six-part miniseries stars Alexander Skarsgard (Big Little Lies, True Blood) and English actress Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) in a 1970s tale of espionage and intrigue. He’s a mystery man, she’s an actress with secrets of her own, and hovering over all is spy mastermind Kurtz (Michael Shannon, The Shape of Water).
As with any respectable international thriller, it was filmed on location in scenic locations including London, Prague and (bonus!) at the Acropolis and Temple of Poseidon in Athens.
There’s another notable producer besides Simon and Stephen Cornwell of the Emmy-winning Night Manager: le Carre himself, the pen name for 86-yearold author David Cornwell.
The Little Drummer Girl was published in 1983; his most recent book, A Legacy of Spies, was released last year. The drama airs Nov. 19-21.
Candice Bergen attends the Murphy Brown panel during the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Aug. 5 in Beverly Hills, Calif.