Archive for Monday, April 6, 2009

Don’t waste time on ‘Surviving Suburbia’

April 6, 2009


Every so often, a show makes you sit up and ask, “Why?” Why did ABC decide to broadcast “Surviving Suburbia” (8:30 p.m., ABC)? Did they think people would watch anything after “Dancing with the Stars”?

I cannot imagine that anyone involved with the writing, production or broadcasting of “Surviving Suburbia” had any hope that it would not suffer critical hostility and audience indifference. Or is that critical indifference and audience hostility?

Television is always a hit-or-miss process, but why proceed with a formula that has been missing consistently for half a generation? Why not just offer us “Son of According to Jim”?

For the record, Bob Saget plays a wise-cracking, world-weary dad and husband to Anne (Cynthia Stevenson), who puts up with his crankiness because he’s a lovable lug. They have a teenage son who is wise to Dad’s wise-cracking and a cute-as-a-button 7-year-old daughter who says precious things when not plugging Disney movies and products. They have a wacky neighbor with boundary issues.

Dan Cortese guest stars in the pilot episode as a not-so-wacky neighbor who asks Steve to feed his fish while he’s away. Chaos ensues. Cortese’s character inspires envy in the married men of the neighborhood because he runs a strip club.

Like every failed sitcom I have ever seen, the interior and exterior sets are completely generic. This could be because “Surviving” is supposed to be a satire of “cookie-cutter” suburbs, but that’s just a cop-out. You don’t have to be an HGTV addict to know that every house and every yard projects the personality of its owner. Good sitcoms reflect this fact. Remember the overgrown front yard on “Malcolm in the Middle”? Or the living room on “Roseanne”? The makers of “Surviving” give no thought to the set design because they’ve given no thought to their characters. And neither should you.

• Now here’s a title I can love. “King of Dirt” (8:30 p.m., DIY) chronicles the life of Gino Panaro, a passionate landscaper, as he works in New York and New Jersey and squabbles with his wife and his brother, Ralph.

• As “The Hills” (9 p.m., MTV) enters its fifth season, the kids realize that a life of gossip and shopping is empty and fraught with moral peril, and they resolve to change their lives utterly. OK, I just made that up.

Tonight’s other highlights

• Soapnet will air “Being Erica” (5 p.m., Soapnet) every night this week.

• Dad (Scott Bakula) returns on “Chuck” (7 p.m., NBC).

• Meat Loaf guest stars on “House” (7 p.m., Fox).

• The music continues on “Dancing with the Stars” (7 p.m., ABC).

• Feel the rush on “Greek” (7 p.m., ABC Family).

• March Madness concludes at the NCAA Basketball Championship game (8 p.m., CBS).

• Noah’s marriage is on the rocks on “Heroes” (8 p.m., NBC).

• Starkwood fires back on “24” (8 p.m., Fox).

• A missing woman’s children complicate Alison’s search on “Medium” (9 p.m., NBC).

• A frozen victim indicates a very cold case on “Castle” (9 p.m., ABC).

• Scholars hash out one of history’s most controversial questions on “Who Really Killed Jesus?” (9 p.m., National Geographic).

Cult choice

Tom Laughlin (“Billy Jack”) stars as a Vietnam vet who takes on a biker gang in the 1967 drama “The Born Losers” (8:30 p.m., TCM).


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