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After Rough Starts, These Fall TV Shows Have Found Their Legs


With Thanksgiving upon us, you might have a chance to veg out in front of the TV after dinner. And if you're not into football, you might want to catch up on some shows that you may have overlooked over the past few months. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says this is a great time to watch some shows that are new this season and have really found their legs. Hey there, Eric.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hey, how you doing?

CORNISH: Pretty good. So I'm interested in this topic because we don't get to come back to shows (laughter) you've introduced to us so often. And one of them was "This Is Us" on NBC, which looked like a pretty typical family drama based on the pilot. And then what happened?

DEGGANS: Yeah. You know, the pilot, you thought it was about four different families. But what you found out was that it was about three adults who were raised by this couple. And we're toggling back and forth between watching the couple when they're young, raising these kids, and watching these adults as 30-somethings. And in particular, they have a son who's black who was adopted into the family who's struggling with being a black man who's raised by a white family. He's found his biological father, and they had a confrontation with a police officer in his neighborhood. And we have a clip of the argument that they have right after that happens. Let's check it out.


STERLING K BROWN: (As Randall) Because I grew up in a white house, you think I don't live in a black man's world. Oh, you know the one - the one where that salesman there has been eyeballing us ever since we came in here plus a million things every day that I have to choose to let go.

DEGGANS: Now, that's the great Sterling K. Brown. You may remember him. He played Chris Darden in the FX miniseries about O.J. Simpson. And here he is wonderful as this guy who's trying to struggle with being a black man who was raised in a white family. And we hardly ever see something like that, particularly on network television.

CORNISH: Yeah, not what I would expect from an NBC drama. I want to talk about another show completely different in tone, ABC's "Designated Survivor" with Kiefer Sutherland, formerly of "24" fame. And I have to admit, people kind of (laughter) rolled their eyes when this show first came out because the idea is that the HUD secretary...

DEGGANS: The humble secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

CORNISH: The humble secretary of Housing and Urban Development has to become the president after a catastrophic attack on America. What happened here? (Laughter) How did this show find its legs?

DEGGANS: I know, it sounds like a bad action movie, especially when you consider Kiefer Sutherland's history as an action hero. But this show is much more about a president struggling to unify a country after a huge terrorist attack. And he's got to come to the country and come to the officials that are left - there's 50 governors - and convince them to support his new government. We have a great clip of him giving a speech where he has to win over these governors' support. Let's check it out.


KIEFER SUTHERLAND: (As Tom Kirkman) I think that I can effect change and promote unity. But I cannot do this alone. Nor can I waste any more time fighting with you. We need to move forward together, or I need to step down.

DEGGANS: Given, you know, how contentious and emotional our electoral result has been recently, I think maybe it helps a little to have a show where the president is trying to build unity. And it's easy to overlook what a great TV actor Kiefer Sutherland is. We've seen him as an action hero, but here he's a statesman. He's somebody - he's a good guy who's trying to take on a Herculean task, and he does it very well.

CORNISH: Finally, Eric, we have a show that you once picked as one of the worst shows of the fall.

DEGGANS: (Laughter).

CORNISH: But here we are back again with "Lethal Weapon" on Fox. Explain yourself, Eric Deggans.

DEGGANS: OK, I was wrong about this one. It's not the worst. And in fact, there's a really great chemistry between Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford, the two stars who are recreating the roles that were done by Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. And we have a great clip of the patter between the two of them as they're with this DEA agent and they're trying to explain a complex crime to their superior, their captain. Let's check it out.


KEVIN RAHM: (As Brooks Avery) The Hongs were peso brokers.

HILARIE BURTON: (As Karen Palmer) Learn that on "Dateline," did you?

RAHM: (As Brooks Avery) What is that?

DAMON WAYANS: (As Roger Murtaugh) Oh, it's like a news show but if only the news was about guys who killed their wives.

RAHM: (As Brooks Avery) Not "Dateline." Peso brokers.

CLAYNE CRAWFORD: (As Martin Riggs) He has humbled himself to say that he doesn't know what it is. At least...

RAHM: (As Brooks Avery) I probably can look it up.

CRAWFORD: (As Martin Riggs) No, hold on. You can at least just explain to him...

BURTON: (As Karen Palmer) All right, all right, fine.

DEGGANS: So she winds up explaining what this is, and they're off to their adventure. There's a lot of funny banter. They blow things up. You know, you couldn't ask for anything more on a Thanksgiving evening.

CORNISH: Well, Eric, thanks so much for that list and going back to (laughter) some not so great hits for us. Glad to see they improved.

DEGGANS: Thank you.

CORNISH: Eric Deggans is NPR's TV critic. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.