The Watchman: Son Shines on Fox’s Prodigal; CBS Has Second Act for Patricia Heaton

Senior content producer Michael Malone’s look at the programming scene
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Premiere week is upon us, which means about a thousand new shows. Creepy thriller Prodigal Son begins on Fox Sept. 23. Tom Payne from The Walking Dead plays criminal psychologist Malcolm Bright. His father is a notorious serial killer known as The Surgeon. The son is like the father in some ways, but he’s a good guy who helps the cops track down dangerous villains.

"Prodigal Son"

Fox's "Prodigal Son"

Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter executive produce. So do Sam Sklaver and Chris Fedak, who are showrunners. Sklaver said they think of Malcolm as “Sherlock Freud.” While it has some humor, Prodigal Son is a dark, angsty show. “We wanted to push the envelope in terms of what you can do on broadcast TV,” said Sklaver. “We definitely see the show as a thriller.”

Michael Sheen plays the charismatic Surgeon, who killed two dozen people. Bellamy Young plays his WASPy ex-wife. Halston Sage portrays Malcolm’s sister Ainsley, a TV journalist. Lou Diamond Phillips plays Bright’s detective contact at the NYPD. Fedak calls Diamond Phillips “the Filipino Steve McQueen.”

“You just don’t realize how cool Lou Diamond Phillips is,” he added.

The idea was hatched when Sklaver and Fedak started thinking about how parents affect their children. “Bright knows how killers think because he was raised by one of the best,” Sklaver said.

The men thought about their own influence as dads. “We wondered how we are affecting our kids,” Sklaver said.

On a lighter note, Carol’s Second Act begins on CBS Sept. 26. Patricia Heaton plays Carol, who raised kids, got divorced and retired from being a teacher. She embarks on a second career as a doctor.

Kyle MacLachlan plays Dr. Stephen Frost, senior attending physician at the hospital where Carol is an intern.

What sets Carol’s Second Act apart from the 999 other new shows? “The concept of someone older and very capable coming back and then mixing it up with a younger generation, and being able to see the value of somebody,” MacLachlan said at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour last month. “Watching that play out is interesting.”

Second acts run in the MacLachlan family. Both of Kyle’s brothers, he said, were musicians who went into other occupations in their 30s, and his mother took on a new career at 40. For his part, Kyle started a winery well after making it in Hollywood. (To paraphrase MacLachlan’s Twin Peaks character, “This is a damn fine cup of wine.”)

“Second acts are happening all the time around us,” MacLachlan said. “So I think people will find something to relate to in this.”

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