Retread comedy survives in 'Suburbia'

TV Review

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You've got to give ABC points for trying.

The opening scene to the premiere of "Surviving Suburbia," a generic new sitcom that follows "Dancing With the Stars" tonight at 9:30, features the Patterson family watching the ABC reality competition series and mom (Cynthia Stevenson, "Men in Trees") demanding that dad (Bob Saget, "Full House") dance with her.

Still, it's difficult to imagine many "Dancing" viewers will be suckered into watching this unimaginative, predictable comedy series for more than the first couple of minutes.

'Surviving Suburbia'

When: 9:30 tonight, WTAE.

Starring: Bob Saget, Cynthia Stevenson.

While there's certainly a need for an engaging new family sitcom in prime time, to succeed a series needs to feel fresher than this relic that could have been shot in 1989 and kept on a shelf for 20 years. "Suburbia" even features a smiling, mugging moppet-like daughter (G. Hannelius), who might make Saget feel like he never left "Full House."

Steve Patterson (Saget) is the mistake-prone father, and Anne (Stevenson) is his ever-forgiving, patient wife. In the premiere, Steve resists when his neighbor Onno (guest star Dan Cortese, who grew up in Sewickley) wants the Pattersons to hold onto a spare key to Onno's house.

Anne forces Steve to relent, which leads to housesitting for Onno, which leads to a small fire, which leads to a lie about how the fire started and a celebration of Steve's heroism built on that lie. Lessons are learned, and Dumb Daddy grows just the teensiest bit as a person.

The show's attempts at humor are gentle -- "The whole neighborhood thinks you're a grumpy old man," Anne tells Steve, "and the only defense I can give is that you're not that old" -- but not all that funny.

It's not surprising that this show was originally created as part of the CW's farmed-out Sunday night lineup last fall. When that attempt to allow Media Rights Capital to program Sunday night went bust, "Suburbia" became a free agent and landed at ABC.

Stevenson is an easy-to-like actress, but she's had far more interesting roles. Even her part in the long-forgotten, short-lived, Pittsburgh-set 1995-96 NBC sitcom "Hope & Gloria" generated more laughs.

Saget's presence here is particularly odd given his turn to darker comedy fare after "Full House." With "Surviving Suburbia," he's squarely back in comedic pabulum territory.

Is it possible to survive sitting through "Suburbia"? Yes, but it's not recommended.

Contact TV editor Rob Owen at or 412-263-1112. Read the Tuned In Journal blog .


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