So Help Me Todd is barreling through its first season, a season that CBS extended with more episodes due to tremendous viewership. Thankfully, it’s been holding steady with each passing hour.
The premise is simple; a perceived slacker has to work for his mother after his life gets blown up. Not exactly something we haven’t seen before, which makes it all the more impressive how the series has been able to forge its own path.
When you combine an alluring cast, intriguing cases, and a healthy dose of laughter, you get So Help Me Todd. And doesn’t that sound like a series that’s worth your time?
Legal dramas are a dime a dozen, okay. There is no use in pretending they’re breaking the mold completely here, but there’s something at the heart of the series that makes it one that millions of viewers are tuning into each week.
As with most shows, it starts with the cast.
This series is brought to life by the lively duo of Margaret and Todd, a mother and son that bicker like it’s their full-time job, played to delectable perfection by Marcia Gay Harden and Skylar Astin.
Todd’s name may be in the title, leading you to believe he’s at the heart of matters alone, but Margaret and Todd together are truly the heart and soul of this whole thing, and if you don’t buy into their relationship, then the series doesn’t go anywhere. But luckily, the series has two actors who understand the assignment and do it with style.
Marcia Gay Harden is an Academy Award-winning actress. She acts her butt off in every scene and continuously reminds you why she’s one of the top actresses working today. Margaret is stern and no-nonsense, but she’s a good person who cares about her clients.
It would be easy to cast Margaret off as cold, but she does try. And you can see that reflected in her relationships with her children, which ebb and flow throughout but are rooted in love.
While Marcia Gay Harden has the name recognition and the chops to back it up, Skylar Astin holds his own and brings an earnestness to Todd that has only gotten deeper as the season has matured.
Skylar made a name for himself through the Pitch Perfect films, and it was likability that shone through then and continues to shine now. You want to root for him even when Todd defies logic and does not listen when he should be. You want him to get it together, and you want him to find happiness.
That’s a testament to Astin, whose charm always comes through in comedic moments and smaller ones when he gets to do more than deliver the punchline.
The supporting cast is just as strong, with Tristen J. Winger’s Lyle being a consummate scene-stealer in his deadpan approach to his longstanding rivalry with Todd. And Madeline Wise’s Allison brings a nice balance to the family who loves one another but has a complicated history and embattled present.
Todd’s relationships with both characters, in particular, are essential to the overall balance of the series. With so much of the narrative revolving around Todd and Margaret reluctantly working together, there need to be strong secondary relationships.
If things fell off when Margaret and Todd weren’t on-screen together, I wouldn’t be writing this piece for you now. But the other character dynamics are quirky and endearing.
I’m looking forward to those scenes that will bring everyone together because you know it will be fantastic getting all those brilliant creatives together on-screen.
An engaging cast with chemistry can combat a lot of flaws, as well as uplift a solid premise.
So Help Me Todd has the unique task of trying to make the standard legal drama funny, which we’ve seen over the years done to varying degrees of success.
It’s hard to find a balance between murder trial and laughs, and while the series did take some time to find its footing, as we’re midway through the first season, they seem to have found it.
The series doesn’t take itself seriously, which helps. Pop culture jokes abound, and there’s a lightness that helps push the series into the comedy more than the drama at times.
The best dramedies find a healthy balance, and they find a way not to let the jokes take away from the seriousness of specific topics. So Help Me Todd can border on funny too much, but that doesn’t mean they don’t stick the emotional beats.
And that’s a testament to solid writing and a capable cast that brings the words on the page to life.
The courtroom scenes aren’t clunky but instead heartfelt. And the cases have been fascinating and far from cookie-cutter.
To date, we’ve had a case involving an Olympic athlete who lost his leg in a plane crash due to a faulty aircraft and Lyle’s own niece being accused of murder on her college campus. We’ve also recently been introduced to the woman who put Todd into the position we found in the pilot.
Plus, the woman who ruined Todd’s life is now back in the picture, and doesn’t that make for a twisty turn as we head into the second half of the season?
The whole team gets involved in solving the case and helping Margaret’s clients, often with Todd bouncing around as the investigator willing to do whatever it takes to win a case.
As much as the show relies on relationships, there has to be an intrigue factor with the legal aspect. We’ve all seen a legal drama before, but what the series does differently than some is include actual investigators and not just lawyers acting as such.
We often see the courtroom drama play out, and some witnesses being talked to as a team works to fit the puzzle pieces together as they represent their client.
But So Help Me Todd has Todd getting his hands dirty, and he and his mother often team up and get right in the thick of things for the betterment of those entrusting them with their freedom.
Hopefully, we’ll have more years to see how the series comes into itself even more and builds on a very effective first effort.
They’ve got all the tools to be a long-term success, and I look forward to seeing the new ways in which they can make me laugh, think, and have a good time watching television. And in a time where we’re inundated with television, it’s nice just to have fun.
Fun is an underrated part of the television viewing experience.
Please let me know in the comments if you’re watching So Help Me Todd, and if so, what are you enjoying the most? Give it a chance if you’re on the fence about starting the series. I can almost guarantee you’ll find something to enjoy.
So Help Me Todd airs Thursdays at 9/8c on CBS.
Whitney Evans is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.