NEW YORK (CNS) — CBS boasts that it’s America’s most-watched network. But a trio of its pilots premiering soon — a drama and two comedies — will do little to sustain such popularity.

The well-intentioned yet trite drama “God Friended Me” debuts Sunday, Sept. 30, 8:30-9 p.m. EDT after an NFL game. Subsequent episodes will air in its regular time slot, Sundays 8-9 p.m. EDT.

Miles Finer (Brandon Micheal Hall) is a 20-something African-American podcast host based in New York City — and an atheist. Believing that people would be better off if they took responsibility for their own lives, Miles aspires to host his own Sirius XM radio show.

After one podcast, Miles receives persistent and eerie Facebook friend requests from God, followed by further friend suggestions. One of those with whom Miles connects, online journalist Cara Bloom (Violett Beane), agrees to help him unravel what both view as a hoax. In the process, the unsuspecting duo help emotionally broken and marginalized people heal and recover.

Containing some mild vulgarity and sensuality, “God Friended Me” is suitable for adults and mature adolescents.

The show is at its best in portraying how Miles, motivated by his newfound perspective, reaches out to his estranged father, Harlem pastor the Rev. Arthur Finer (Joe Morton). Such moments lend “God Friended Me” the gravitas it otherwise lacks in tackling its weighty subject matter.

Story lines reliant on tidy yet implausible coincidences, moreover, won’t move even those viewers willing to accept the program’s far-fetched premise.

“The Neighborhood” is a similarly flawed albeit commendably ambitious CBS newbie. The sitcom begins Monday, Oct. 1, 8-8:30 p.m. EDT, and will air in that time slot throughout the fall.

When auto repair shop owner Calvin Butler (Cedric the Entertainer) hears the Johnsons are moving into his predominantly black Los Angeles neighborhood, he assumes they’re a successful African-American family like his own. As it turns out, Dave (Max Greenfield), wife Gemma (Beth Behrs) and young son Grover (Hank Greenspan), newly arrived from Michigan, are in fact white.

On the Johnsons’ move-in day, Calvin is preparing for his annual block party, dubbed his “Yardecue.” He says of these gatherings: “Our family has been in this neighborhood for generations, and the culture we worked to create is worthy of respect.” Calvin is understandably skeptical of the Johnsons’ ability to fit into this world, but his wife, Tina (Tichina Arnold), includes them in the party.

Unusually for a sitcom, “The Neighborhood” courageously tackles racism, especially the distinct possibility that “progressive” whites may harbor unconscious racial bias. An exchange between Dave and Calvin’s unemployed son, Malcolm (Sheaun McKinney), captures the important dialogue the series — whose mature content makes it safest for grown-ups — conducts so well.

When Dave says, “If we could focus on what we have in common then we can solve so many of our problems,” Malcolm answers: “It’s easier for someone like you to believe that than someone like me.”

“The Neighborhood,” however, isn’t that funny. If the show’s humor catches up with its social commentary, it could have a bright future.

Premiering after “The Neighborhood,” Monday, Oct. 1, 8:30–9 p.m. EDT — its regular time slot going forward — the new CBS comedy “Happy Together” isn’t just defective, it’s a mess.

Thirtysomething Los Angeles accountant Jake (Damon Wayans Jr.) has a high-profile client in young Australian pop star Cooper James (Felix Mallard). When Cooper breaks up with his equally well-known live-in girlfriend, Sierra Quinn (Peyton List), he seeks refuge with Jake and his wife, Claire (Amber Stevens West), a restaurant designer.

Besides its default to some sexual innuendo and tasteless talk, “Happy Together” also displays a frivolous attitude toward drinking. This is summed up by a line given to Claire’s mom, Bonnie (Stephnie Weir): “You can’t be an alcoholic if you’re retired.” Impressionable viewers should be kept away from such breezily irresponsible material.

There may be the occasional titter here or there. But overall, “Happy Together” is painfully unfunny.


Byrd is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.