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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
WHO GETS THE PARENTS (ABC)
(written by Joe Port & Joe Wiseman; directed by Mark Cendrowski; TRT: 22:43)
The network's description: "When most couples get divorced, the big question is who gets custody of the kids. When a couple with three adult children gets divorced, the question is who gets stuck with the parents? After 30 years of marriage, Gene and Phyllis Fiddleman have decided to call it quits. There was just something missing. Fiery Phyllis didn't exactly choose this, but now that she has the freedom and excitement of being single, she's embracing it. All her anti-social husband Gene wants is someone to help him operate the dishwasher. Their three adult children are startled by the divorce. Well, most of them, at least. Their 26-year old totally co-dependent youngest son Mitch has to confess that he suspected something. After all, he still lives at home.
Their momma's boy 28-year old middle son Neil is happily married to Brenda, but secretly wishes he still lived at home. Meanwhile, their well-adjusted, independent 30-year old daughter Cass is quite happy to live as far from her parents as she can get. So imagine how she feels when mom moves into the apartment next door. Everyone wants his or her family to be close, but there's got to be a limit, right? Executive produced by Peter Traugott (Samantha Who?) and created by Just Shoot Me's Joe Port and Joe Wiseman, this family comedy is an irreverent look at how grown children deal with their parents' second adolescence. Ask not what your parents have done for you, but Who Gets The Parents?"
What did they leave out? Adam Arkin is one funny dude.
The plot in a nutshell: Gene (Adam Arkin) and Phyllis (Jane Kaczmarek) have gathered their three kids together for an important announcement: after 32 years of marriage, they've decided to get divorced. It's news that hits youngest Mitch (Andrew West) the hardest as he's now going to have to move out and actually become an adult. Eldest Cass (Lindsey Broad) is equally shocked, especially after Phyllis announces she's moving to the city where she'll be even closer than usual. Middle child Neil (Derek Richardson) however won't let said development cut his mother's apron strings, much to the chagrin of his just-can't-compete wife Brenda (Lindsay Price). And with that, the Fiddleman clan tries to adjust to the new status quo.
Gene and Phyllis make the most of their newfound freedom as the latter embraces going to happy hour and taking classes while the former finds bliss in uninterrupted satellite television, not to mention being the prime target of the middle-aged singles in the area. Cass however is horrified by her mother's constant presence as she embarrasses her in front of her friends while Mitch tries to use his underutilized law degree to keep them from giving him the boot. Brenda conversely, with Phyllis gone, finally sees this as the chance to prove she can handle hosting the family's Sunday dinner.
Their folks however find single life has its pitfalls as well: Gene, without Phyllis to coddle him, can barely feed and clothe himself ("He's like a giant mean baby who complains about the government a lot," Mitch notes); while Phyllis, untethered by Gene, is now overly invested in Cass, going so far as to literally move across the hall. Mitch, sensing an opportunity to once again live rent free, suggests he can be Gene's "wife," doing his dishes and washing his clothes; while Cass, realizing how much her mother needs it, decides to welcome her previously intrusive meddling. Brenda however still can't win, as her Sunday dinner is a bust.
What works: Trust me when I say we need Adam Arkin in a sitcom as his borderline bumbling Gene is an all around hoot. Whether it's feebly attempting to dress himself ("Mitch, I've been throwing socks away after I wear them," he confesses embarrassingly), being confused by dishwashers and microwaves, or pimping himself out to the single woman next door - not for sex, but for regular meals, Arkin brings a fantastic spark to the show. Kaczmarek likewise is in top form here, as her usual terrifying-meets-overbearing persona, with the kids all providing fun moments. It's a traditional four-camera show in the best way possible: slightly over the top and larger than life but not so much that it hyper-stylizes your typical family foibles. I'm an unabashed sucker for these types of shows...
What doesn't: ...even if they seem to operate in the shadows of their much more beloved single-camera comedy brethren. While I'm sure the current development edict is to find the next "Modern Family," even with its throwback feel, "Who Gets the Parents" speaks just as well to those familial elements. Sure, it's not groundbreakingly fresh or roll-in-the-aisles funny, but it does seem to come from a real place, not to mention has some genuine laughs. That's more than one can say about...
The bottom line: ...the majority of the comedies that did get picked up.