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New fall series: Coming back from the past doesn't always pay off


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NEW YORK (CNS) -- New TV shows mostly tend to fall into one of three categories: How did this ever get on the air? Not bad, but viewers have seen this kind of thing often. Looks promising.

One comedy and two dramas premiering this fall conform to these designations.

The popular and talented comedienne Amy Poehler executive produces the dreadful new sitcom "I Feel Bad," which premieres Wednesday, Sept. 19, 10-10:30 p.m. EDT on NBC. After its debut, the show will move to its regular time slot, Thursdays 9:30-10 p.m. EDT, beginning Oct. 4.

In the pilot, the lead character, Emet (Sarayu Blue), an Indian-American woman in her 30s, says, "I feel bad about something, almost every day." Then she adds distressingly: "I cheat on my husband in my dreams."

The mother of three is also the art director at the San Francisco-based video game company Game Punchy -- and the only woman on its stereotypically described team of geeks.

After her father, Sonny (Brian George, "Seinfeld"), mistaking her for his wife, touches Emet inappropriately, she seeks reassurance from her co-workers. "Am I still 'doable'?" she asks. This coarse moment underscores the unfortunate tone that mars the program as a whole.

Obvious and gratuitous scatological, salacious and vulgar humor undercuts the series. Some cartoonish violence is also included. These elements should limit the show's audience to grownups. But they may not stick with it long.

Like the revived "Will and Grace," "Magnum PI," which debuts on CBS Monday, Sept. 24, 9-10 p.m. EDT and will remain in that time slot, is a reworked version of its eponymous forbearer, a hit which ran for most of the 1980s. The original show owed its popularity, in large measure, to the physical magnetism of its lead, Tom Selleck; the series made him a star.

The retread, alas, is no better than middling.

Minus the mustache and Selleck's trademark Hawaiian shirts, the affable Jay Hernandez plays private investigator Thomas Magnum. Still a former Navy SEAL, he's now a veteran of Afghanistan rather than Vietnam.

The introduction of Juliett Higgins' character (Perdita Weeks) is the biggest departure from precedent. Taking the place of estate caretaker and former British military officer Jonathan Higgins, who was played by John Hillerman, Juliett is a former British MI-6 officer. The suggested physical attraction between her and Magnum will likely flavor future episodes.

The show's constant gunplay, explosions and car chases appear designed to appeal to adolescent males. But the high level of violence, some of it fairly gruesome, makes the series suitable only for adults.

The mayhem notwithstanding, "Magnum PI's" brisk pacing as well as the likable chemistry between its players make it passable escapist entertainment.

Veteran director and producer Robert Zemeckis ("Forest Gump") is among the executive producers of one of the season's more anticipated new series, "Manifest." This intriguing drama, which features a head-scratcher premise, premieres Monday, Sept. 24, 10--11 p.m. EDT on NBC, and will air in that time slot throughout the fall.

As explained by single, 30-something NYPD officer Michaela Stone (Melissa Roxburgh), she and the other passengers on a Montego Air flight from Jamaica to JFK -- her brother, Ben (Josh Dallas), and nephew, Cal (Jack Messina), among them -- were relieved when their extremely turbulent flight landed safely. The people on the ground, by contrast, were bewildered.

The plane had taken off in April 2013 but arrived in November 2018.

Time has stood still for the plane's passengers and crew but has, of course, moved on for everyone else. Michaela, for instance, learns that a beloved family member has died, and that her fiance, Jared Vasquez (J.R. Ramirez), is married. In a further twist, Michaela and Ben begin hearing voices, which enable them to intervene to rescue people and prevent tragedies.

"Manifest" features some violence, but nothing lurid. There's a kidnapping, and a child character copes with leukemia. But the early proceedings are admirably free of profanity and sexual content. Thus "Manifest" is suitable fare for adults and mature adolescents, many of whom will likely find themselves drawn in by the unusual but captivating show's ever-deepening mysteries.

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Byrd is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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