By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
Networks sometimes refer to their stable of shows as being part of “the family” — as in “the CBS family” — and that naturally leads one to look for ways to categorize programming decisions in family terms. Showtime picking up Arrested Development from Fox: Would that be a foster-care situation or benevolent adoption? And why can’t ABC get a grip on its once-promising Commander in Chief, which is now handing in viewership report cards that would make no parent network happy, and is about to lose show-running stepdad Steven Bochco?
How will ABC newborn Sons & Daughters turn out? It’s got one famous older parent in executive producer Lorne Michaels, and a couple of young guardians in creators Fred Goss and Nick Holly, who are nudging ABC into unfamiliar territory with comedy that is semi-improvised à la Curb Your Enthusiasm. But there’s enough that’s familiar in the dysfunctional-clan scenario to keep the network cooing.
Goss stars as Cameron, a husband and father trying to not only manage his own blended family — including a bitter teenage son from his first marriage and a hot wife (Gillian Vigman), with whom he now has kids — but also deal with a sister (Alison Quinn) in a sexless marriage, and a comely younger stepsister (Amanda Walsh) who hates her baby’s loser daddy, nicknamed “Whitey” (Greg Pitts), but won’t give up dreaming of bad boys like Colin Farrell, whom she calls “classy.” On top of that, the siblings’ mother, Colleen (Dee Wallace), still has an obvious hold on everyone — emotionally and even financially — and she’s going through her own problems with her husband, Wendal (Max Gail), who’s ready to get out after 25 years.
Just as Big Love represents a threefold increase in family contretemps, Sons & Daughters ups the kin-eticism of three generations within meddling distance of each other, and the results are promising. Issues of secret-keeping, checkbook hardship and sexual compatibility have been addressed in the episodes that have run so far, and the looseness of the interchanges gives the humor an anti-writers’-room freshness without losing the harshness we’ve come to expect in this Everybody Loves Raymond/Arrested Developmentage of clashing relatives. Most impressive is the sense that despite all the crash-and-burn storylines and traded insults, the characters aren’t consumed with faux sitcom hatred, and there’s room for simple moments of tenderness that aren’t the accursed “hugs” we’ve been trained to hate from the rise of Seinfeld. In other words, I notice people smiling on this show. It could just be actors pleased with their ad-libbing ability, or it could be a performance choice. But whatever the case — and this is for you, Daddy ABC — who doesn’t like a grinning infant?
BIG LOVE | HBO | Sundays 10 p.m.
SONS & DAUGHTERS| ABC | Tuesdays 9 p.m.
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