TVRG’s Best and Worst of 2020: Best Freshman Scripted Series

CBS' sitcom roster left many head-scratching decisions for the 2019-20 season as it offered up 4 unique freshman comedies, three returning solid veterans and only 6 slots to schedule.  They had an unscripted and critically-acclaimed The Unicorn, comfort food Carol's Second Act, the quirky rom-com Bob Hearts Abishola and gritty Broke.  Selecting a show to follow Monday's The Neighborhood left the floor open for Bob Hearts Abishola and Carol's Second Act as both featured prior Monday night sitcom names people loved (Billy Gardell and Patricia Heaton).  CBS chose wisely and placed Bob Hearts Abishola behind The Neighborhood, creating a dynamic comedy hour of lighthearted laughs.  Mondays at 8:30 proved to hold a high mortality rate on CBS, and perhaps their logic was if Bobishola tanked, they could offer up another player on bench.  Thankfully, this never came to fruition as Bob Hearts Abishola held its own and returned viewers to lighthearted laughs.  And CBS wisely handed the capable freshman an attractive two-season renewal as it's award for its heartfelt delivery.

Centered on businessman Bob Wheeler's (Billy Gardell) fateful heart attack landing him in the hospital, he meets Nigerian nurse Abishola Adebambo (Folake Olowofoyeku) and is smitten.  Initially hesitant, Abishola lets down her guard and the two pursue romance set against their typecast families on the sidelines rooting for their success.  While not groundbreaking, Bob Hearts Abishola made up for mediocrity with heart and soul, something missing from the majority of sitcoms offered in the 2010's.  Bob and Abishola's awkward navigation of love takes viewers back to the same allure Mike and Molly had, as well as the whimsical fun movies such as My Big Fat Greek Wedding delivered as culture clashes and education take the front stage.  Bobishola delivered modestly in the ratings, ranging from 0.7-0.9 and always retained between 75-88% of its solid lead-in.

The 2010's were a decade which the usually wholesome CBS traded values for crassness and toilet humor, thanks in whole to Charlie Sheen vehicle Two and a Half Men being a megahit lighting Mondays on fire.  Capitalizing on the trend, it seemed nearly every Chuck Lorre vehicle save for The Big Bang Theory pushed this envelope, even with heartfelt rom-com Mike and Molly (Billy Gardell's prior hit vehicle).  Flash forward after the 2017 #Me Too scandal, and CBS returned to what made its sitcoms sparkle: genuine, heartfelt laughs.  Even modestly crass Mom toned it down in the prior two seasons, and 2019-20 offered Bob Hearts Abishola the perfect opportunity to develop and perform.  Let's hope CBS keeps it simple in 2020-21 and locates another sitcom with Bobishola's heartfelt traits to bolster it's tired schedule.

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