[07/28/05 - 12:00 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "War at Home, The" (FOX)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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With the official start of the 2005-06 season less than two months away, the drumbeats have begun by the networks to tout their new comedies and dramas. What should you keep your eye out for? What should you avoid at all costs? While it's still a little early for full reviews (some recasting and reshooting will be done on a good chunk of them), we thought we'd spend the next month previewing what's in store for the upcoming season. Each day we'll look at two of the 47 new series set to premiere this season and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot.

There's no particular order here, just whatever's next on the stack of tapes. So without further ado, here's today's entries:

(Sundays at 8:30/7:30c this fall)

The network's description: "When DAVE (Michael Rapaport, "Hitch," "Small Time Crooks," "Boston Public") and VICKY (Anita Barone, "Daddio," "The Jeff Foxworthy Show") were growing up, their parents had it easy. Back then, there were no "time-outs," no one had any "boundaries" and "parenting" wasn't even a word. Parents also had no idea what their kids were really up to; ignorance truly was bliss. Now Dave and Vicky have teenagers of their own, and anything their kids might even think about doing, Dave and Vicky have already done � at least twice. But knowledge isn't power � it's a giant pain! Every day is a battle to keep the kids in line. Fifteen-year-old LARRY (Kyle Sullivan, MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE) isn't exactly a frequent diner at the cool kids' table in the cafeteria, while 16-year-old HILLARY (Kaylee Defer, QUINTUPLETS, "Listen Up") knows it all and is just emerging onto the dating scene. Meanwhile, at 13, MIKE (Dean Collins, "Jack & Bobby") is all hormones and video games. Dave and Vicky figure if they can send these three off to college without a police record or kids of their own, they've done their job. This witty, irreverent show from Rob Lotterstein ("Will & Grace," "Ellen," "Dream On") goes inside the heads of a modern family through the use of a confessional space where the characters reveal everything they could never actually say to one another � as they do their best to win THE WAR AT HOME."

What did they leave out: That pretty much covers it.

The plot in a nutshell: Family man Dave (Michael Rapaport) spells it out right from the start (in one of the show's many "talk to the camera" sequences) - there's a war going on between parents and children nowadays, a war the parents are losing. He reminisces about his own youth in which kids feared their parents and they didn't talk back, something that's almost science fiction in today's world. Case in point: Dave and Vicky's (Anita Barone) three kids - there's the might-be-gay Larry (Kyle Sullivan), who likes to spend his free time in his room dressing up like a woman; the overly-hormoned Mike (Dean Collins), who wants nothing more than a new Playstation; and the rebellious Hillary (Kaylee Defer), who wants to start dating older college guys. It's enough to kill a man, something he imagines happening quite frequently (however in one of the show's equally as many fantasy sequences, paramedics rush onto the scene and save him). And so the battle lines are drawn: Dave tries to "out" Larry, say no to Mike's demands and keep the chastity belt on Hillary. The kids however don't take things lying down and fight back: Larry brings around his equally ambiguous (in terms of their sexual orientation) friend, Hillary decides to bring home an African-American boy her own age and Mike, well, doesn't really do much at all. It all more or less plays out as you'd expect as the parents and the kids expose each other's motives and secret scheming, eventually reaching a truce in which one "side" thinks the other "side" has lost when they really haven't.

What works: About as harmless and forgettable as last year's failed sitcoms "Quintuplets" and "Life on a Stick," "The War at Home" falls into that "smart ass parents/smart ass kids" sitcom wheelhouse FOX is so fond of as of late. It has a few decent laughs but unfortunately nothing that's going to inspire appointment viewing beyond being the filler between "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy."

What doesn't: Unfortunately the characters don't evolve beyond the caricatures they're conceived as: the overprotective dad, the once promiscuous mom, the slutty daughter, the horndog son and the oddball son. The "talking to the camera" confessionals add some much needed flair but it all feels very been there/done that. Overall it's not an unwatchable show, just something that's easy to ignore.

The challenges ahead: Will "The War at Home" sustain the audience between "The Simpsons" and "Family Guy?" Or is this just another in a long line of similarly-themed "family" sitcoms on FOX? We'll find out soon when it premieres this fall on FOX.

  [july 2005]  


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