How ‘So Help Me Todd’ Varies From the Typical CBS Procedural

Skylar Astin and Marcia Gay Harden in ‘So Help Me Todd.’
Skylar Astin and Marcia Gay Harden in ‘So Help Me Todd.’ (Image credit: Bettina Strauss/CBS)

So Help Me Todd, with Marcia Gay Harden as a by-the-books attorney and Skylar Astin as her aimless son, premieres on CBS September 29. Harden’s Margaret character hires Astin’s Todd, a former private detective whose license is revoked, to be her law firm’s investigator. 

“Margaret’s penchant for excellence and strict adherence to the law is at complete odds with Todd’s scrappy methods of finding his way through sticky situations: by the seat of his wrinkled pants,” CBS said. “When Todd inadvertently teams with his mother on a case, she’s surprised to find herself duly impressed by–and proud of–his crafty ability to sleuth out information with his charm and his wide-ranging tech savvy.”

The series also stars Madeline Wise, Tristen J. Winger, Inga Schlingmann and Rosa Arredondo.

Scott Prendergast is the creator, and executive produces as well. Elizabeth Klaviter is showrunner and executive producer. In a TCA Press Tour session, Prendergast said the show is based on a true story, where his mother’s husband disappeared and he helped find her. He described So Help Me Todd as a mix of The Good Wife and Moonlighting and “a classic CBS procedural.” 

Prendergast added that, after finding his mother’s husband, he set out for Hollywood. “I was like, ‘I'm moving to Hollywood. I'm going to make a movie. I'm going to be in entertainment,’ ” he said. “And my mother was like, ‘You are an idiot and you need health insurance.’ And then when I found her husband, at the end of that ordeal, my mother said to me, ‘I believe in you. You can do it. You can do anything. Look what you did for me. If you hadn't been here, who would have found my husband?‘ ”

She added, “Go to Hollywood, follow your dreams." 

Prendergast made his name in comedy, including Wilfred on FX, and so So Help Me Todd has more comedy than a typical CBS procedural. “I think Skylar and Marcia, and the entire cast, are great at really finding a way to ground and root the humor in a natural and organic performance where we believe that the characters care,” said Prendergast. 

Gay Harden spoke a bit about Margaret and Todd’s relationship. “They have this whole wonderful battle between the millennials and my generation, where those ideas of responsibility and the ideas of how you show up in society aren't necessarily reflected in the new generation,” she said. “And so Margaret's really fighting for him to…pay his bills, get out of bed, go to work in the morning.”

Reviews have been mostly positive. The Wall Street Journal (opens in new tab) said So Help Me Todd “is nothing if not a multitasker — it quacks like a comedy, walks like Law & Order, swims like a social satire and flies, albeit awkwardly, past the pigeonholes.

“What is it? Charming, among other things, partly because it makes such an effort to avoid categories, partly because it has the mirthsome Marcia Gay Harden cast as uptight lawyer Margaret Wright.” ■

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.