It’s hard not to like actor Zach Braff, particularly when he’s playing an idealistic dreamer as he is on ABC’s new show “Alex, Inc.” Based on the podcast “StartUp,” the series is about being brave, taking risks and following your heart. Braff steers a talented cast away from what could be a sappy manifesto in this age of entrepreneurship as self-reinvention and into a solid and often funny story about the realities of not playing it safe.

Braff is Alex Schuman, a talented radio journalist and father of two, who decides during a work meeting for his show “Cheer Up!” that he wants something different in his professional life. Tired of the mindless feel good stories he is forced to write, “How many gorillas know sign language at this point? It feels like all — all the gorillas,” he passionately declares, “I don’t want to cheer people up. I want to engage their minds, open their eyes to what’s happening in the world.” He starts a podcast company with his producer Deirdre (Hillary Anne Matthews) and his cousin Eddie (Michael Imperioli), to the slight dismay of his wife Rooni (Tiya Sircar).

Alex narrates each episode from his perspective, allowing Braff to set-up comedic scenes and to share Alex’s thoughts and feelings as running commentary. It’s not overdone and mostly works to make Alex likeable in both goofy and sincere moments. Going along on Alex’s journey of self-discovery means learning a lot of personal and professional lessons ranging from the expected (don’t lie to your wife) to the slightly less expected (a desire for democratic decision-making at work doesn’t mean you don’t take charge as the boss). The messages aren’t subtle and feel too eager at times but Braff has enough charm to make the teachable moments endearing.

The show pokes fun at start up culture at Alex’s workspace and references a “Shark Tank” style pitch meeting gone wrong when he tries to lure potential investor Chris Sacca, who plays himself and has appeared as a “shark,” with a clumsy presentation. It’s not believable that a radio journalist trying to start a podcast company would use a projector to persuade a tech savvy investor to give him money, but Braff pulls off the scene with help from Audyssie James, who plays his daughter Soraya. She rolls her eyes and enjoys a free smoothie delivered by one of Sacca’s employees in a completely adorable way.

James, along with Elisha Henig, who plays Alex’s son Ben, are solid additions to the cast and refreshingly, not cloying. Wanting to impress a girl in his class who likes a biracial boy, Ben, whose features favor Alex rather than his Indian-American mom Rooni, tells Soraya, “My name is Ben Schuman. I sound like an orthodontist with an herb garden.”

Sircar, who is a standout as a recurring character on “The Good Place,” has more talent than she is given room to show here while Imperioli and Matthews deliver some sharp one-liners. Playing off Braff, the ensemble is strong but he’s the draw.

“Alex, Inc.” premieres on ABC on March 28 at 8:30 p.m. EDT.
— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing.’” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at staytuned@outlook.com or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.