We at Fangirlish were big fans of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist (and are still sad it was prematurely cancelled). So when we heard Skylar Astin was going to appear in a new series, So Help Me Todd, it was pretty much a given we’d check it out. And, boy, are we glad we did. It’s on the lighter side of CBS’s mystery fare, more like a cozy mystery than a procedural drama. But that’s actually part of its appeal.
Who Done What?
There are actually two mysteries in the Pilot episode. The first deals with his stepfather’s disappearance. Not under nefarious circumstances, but certainly mysterious ones, as he just picks up and leaves with only one suitcase to his name while Todd’s mom, Margaret (Marcia Gay Harden), is at work. The second mystery is a somewhat more traditional “whodunnit.” Margaret’s client is on trial for murder, she knows her client is innocent, and she and Todd work together to figure out the actual culprit.
The resolution to the first mystery involves more family court than criminal court. The second resolves itself with a truly Perry Mason-style denouement that does more to drive home the light, popcorn nature of the series than anything else. But there’s really nothing wrong with that. (I mean, as an attorney, I’m not sure about the ethics of what Margaret did in court. But if I spent too much time stressing over how Hollywood handles legal ethics, I’d have had a stroke by now.)
The mysteries themselves were intriguing enough to carry the hour, with a few clues and twists I didn’t expect. But let’s be honest. So Help Me Todd (at least its Pilot) isn’t about murder mysteries or legal drama. It’s about the family dynamics. And that’s where the first episode really shined.
The “Fun” In “Dysfunctional”
There are all types of dysfunctional families on television. Some are worse than others. The dynamic between the members of the Wright family is more “every family’s awkward as hell Thanksgiving Dinner” than “someone file for a series of no contact orders, STAT.” But there’s no question that every member of this family has Issues, and they frankly could all probably benefit from therapy.
Margaret is principled, judgmental, and uncompromising. Yes, she loves her family. But she has a clearly defined sense of right and wrong, and Todd, at least, doesn’t fit neatly into her black and white world. Todd is less a square peg in a round hole and more a triangle irritated his mom is trying to fit him into any kind of hole at all. There are of course other family members – an absentee son with a job title, at least, that his mother respects, and a daughter who credits her own success with her mother’s interference. No doubt, we will discover their neuroses more in time.
But the show centers on the dynamic between Todd and his mother. She’s rigid. He’s flexible. She’s principled. He’s…somewhat loose with the truth. She’s a hard nosed, successful attorney. He’s a disgraced former P.I. whose heart is bigger than his pocketbook.
These two characters will never see eye-to-eye, but now that Todd is working for the firm, they’ll have to figure out how to understand each other. We’ll keep watching while they do.
And as a side note, thank you to whoever at CBS decided Skylar Astin should keep his Season Two Scruff.
So Help Me Todd airs Thursdays at 9/8c on CBS.