Friday, April 03, 2009

ABC Mid-Season Pilot Review: Surviving Suburbia - Premieres April 6; Lifetime TV Acquires Cybill

Surviving Suburbia

Surviving Suburbia - Mondays 9:30PM ET/PT on ABC
Premieres Monday, April 6, 2009 at 9:30PM ET/PT

In the family-centered tradition of Roseanne and Home Improvement, Surviving Suburbia opens the curtain to follow Bob Saget (How I Met Your Mother, Full House) and Cynthia Stevenson (Men in Trees, Dead Like Me) as Steve and Anne Patterson, a seemingly normal couple who have been married for 20 years, have two children and a cookie cutter house in the idyllic suburbs. But Steve maintains a rather cynical point of view on family, friends, neighbors, society -- pretty much everyone and everything -- as he tries to survive suburban life.
Surviving Suburbia takes a contemporary look at family life and the reasons one might have to question the system -- How does exchanging keys with a neighbor for emergencies result in house sitting? Why do kids' classroom projects inevitably become the parents' responsibility? When did we start needing mediators to handle disagreements between adults? - all of which goes to prove that it's never just another sunny day in the suburbs.
Also starring in the half-hour comedy series are Jared Kusnitz and G Hannelius as the Patterson kids, Henry and Courtney, plus Jere Burns (Good Morning Miami, Something So Right) as Dr. Jim. Dan Cortese (What I Like About You) and Lorna Scott (Criminal Minds, The OC) are recurring guest stars as Onno and Monica, respectively.


Cast Details:

* Bob Saget as Steve Patterson
* Cynthia Stevenson as Anne Patterson
* Jere Burns as Dr. Jim
* G. Hannelius as Courtney Patterson
* Jared Kusnitz as Henry Patterson
* Dan Cortese as Onno
* Lorna Scott as Monica

Bob Saget (Steve Patterson) is known worldwide for his many television roles and for setting a precedent by simultaneously starring in two Top 10 primetime series, the long-running sitcom Full House and as host of ABC's America's Funniest Home Videos for eight years. He's also familiar to a more 'adult' audience through his edgy standup comedy, theater and film work. In August 2008 Saget was honored with The Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget, one of the highest rated shows for all of 2008 on Comedy Central. In the past two years, Saget has made his Broadway debut in the Tony Award winning play, The Drowsy Chaperone, hosted the quiz show 1 vs. 100, starred in his own HBO special, That Ain't Right, and kicked off a national theater tour. In the past few years he has also played a murderer on Law & Order: SVU, poked fun at his own image on Entourage, guest-starred on Huff, and had a hit music video from MTV, "Rollin' With Saget," in which he starred with friends Jamie Kennedy and Stu Stone.

Cynthia Stevenson (Anne Patterson) was born in Piedmont, CA but grew up in Bellevue, WA and Vancouver, BC. After attending American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, followed by Drama Studio London at Berkley, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. Her work in improv and in theatre landed her an agent and an immediate job doing 26 episodes of a sketch comedy TV show entitled Off The Wall. After doing guest parts on the sitcoms The Famous Teddy Z, Newhart and Cheers, Stevenson was cast as the lead in the sitcom talk show My Talk Show. That proved to be her big break, as director Robert Altman noticed and cast her in his Oscar nominated film The Player. Series regular roles on such shows as Bob and Hope & Gloria followed. Additionally Stevenson played the lead on the cable series Oh Baby, then she moved to Vancouver and starred in Dead Like Me. Her feature roster also includes such films as Agent Cody Banks, Agent Cody Banks 2, Neverwas, Case 39 and the Disney Air Bud comedies. She was a series regular on ABC's series MEN IN TREES, had a recurring role on According to Jim and starred in the TV Christmas movie, Will You Merry Me. She can also be seen in the recent and upcoming films Dead Like Me: The Movie, Reunion, I Love You Beth Cooper and Jennifer's Body.

Jared Kusnitz (Henry Patterson) teams him once again with Jere Burns, with whom Kusnitz starred in the indie film Otis, also starring Illeana Douglas and Daniel Stern and written by Emmy Award winning writer Erik Jendresen (Band of Brothers). In February 2009, Kusnitz was nominated for a Zombie Dead Letter Award in the category of Best Actor for his performance as Jimmy Dunn in the film Dance of the Dead, which also garnered eight nods in other categories, including Best Movie. Kusnitz's skill and comedic timing inspired writer Joe Ballarini to rewrite the script with the unlikely hero, Dunn, as the lead.

G Hannelius (Courtney Patterson) was born in Boston, MA but moved with her parents to southern Maine when she was still very young. At the age of seven she landed the title role in Madeline's Rescue at The Children's Theatre of Maine. When the family relocated to Los Angeles in 2008, Hannelius promptly booked commercials for Orville Redenbacher's Popcorn, Little Caesar's Pizza, Dairy Queen and a regional spot as the spokeskid for The Aquarium of the Pacific, which caught the attention of a more than a few casting directors. A notice seeking "the representative for the little girl in the Aquarium commercial" led to an opportunity to read for the lead role in ABC's new sitcom, Surviving Suburbia, with co-stars Bob Saget and Cynthia Stevenson. Hannelius recently worked a guest lead role in an episode of the Disney Channel comedy, Sonny with a Chance, and fulfilled her cherished dream to work with Miley Cyrus when she booked a role as a zealous fan on the hit Disney Channel series Hannah Montana. She is also part of the promotional campaign for Leo Little's Big Show, co-hosting spots on the Disney Channel.

Jere Burns (Dr. Jim) was born and raised in Cambridge, MA. He graduated from UMass, Amherst and attended the MFA program at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. His New York theatre credits include The New York Shakespeare Festival, The Public Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, The Culture Project and, most recently, Hairspray at The Neil Simon. On television Burns is a veteran of eight series, including Dear John, Something So Right, Help Me Help You, and Good Morning Miami. He has also appeared in numerous made for television movies and independent and feature films.

Dan Cortese (Onno) has both acting and hosting credits in television. He burst onto the small screen hosting MTV Sports, then hosted My Dad Is Better Than Your Dad. His acting credits include such sitcoms as Joey, Veronica's Closet, What I Like About You, Seinfeld and Rock Me Baby.


Pilot Plot:

#1 (PROD #106) "Hero" (Airs Monday, April 6, 2009)
Steve reluctantly agrees to house sit for Onno (recurring guest star Dan Cortese) and ends up starting a fire that he later claims to have stopped. Steve gets caught up in being praised as a hero by his daughter and his neighbors, until his conscience gets the better of him.
Special Guest Star: Dan Cortese as Onno. Guest Cast: Paul Nobrega as Guy and Michael Christian Alexander as paramedic.
"Hero" was written by Don Beck and directed by Emile Levisetti.


Analysis:

I received for review the first episode airing, which is titled "Hero." This is actually the sixth episode produced. Originally this sitcom was supposed to be for The CW's Sunday night block, which was produced by Media Rights Capital. But due to low ratings, The CW canceled that block in the fall, thus giving this series no home as it was set to launch in January. But fortunately for Surviving Suburbia, ABC picked up the show in February and announced it would air it after Dancing with the Stars starting in April! 13 episodes have already been taped, but likely only 6 will air for now on ABC as they won't have room for all 13 this season. So there you have it, the history of the show in a nutshell.
Now to the actual analysis...Bob Saget returns to ABC! The first episode they are airing has some very funny moments and I could certainly see this being a promising series with many laughs. This is for sure a throwback to traditional family sitcoms such as Home Improvement. Bob Saget plays Steve Patterson, a husband and father. He is certainly not squeaky clean and perfect like he was on Full House. On this show, he gets into a lot of messes. This show is certainly his vehicle, as on Full House it was more of an ensemble and later turned into "the Olsen twins show with John Stamos." Bob does get to play a father once again to a little girl. This time the little girl is not as annoying as Michelle on Full House (sorry I know there are MANY fans of that show, but it clearly was very sappy to me). The daughter (Courtney) on this show is very adorable (yes, so was Michelle) and pretty smart. She is funny, too. Bob's character, Steve, connects with her very well.
In the first episode airing, Courtney announces for her project she is writing that Zach Efron is her "hero." Later Steve's neighbor Onno comes by as he is going on a trip, so he asks Steve to take care of his house and gives him the key to the house. Steve and his friend Dr. Jim go to the house and accidentally set the curtain on fire! Steve puts out the fire and is credited as a hero, yet no one knows he was the one that started the fire! Anyway, then daughter Courtney changes her hero project to her dad. Steve now feels bad because he didn't deserve it. What will happen? You'll have to tune in.
So what works and doesn't? Obviously the connection between Steve and daughter Courtney is very much there. Right now there is not much connection between Steve and his son Henry, but I see potential as we go on. Henry seems to be 17 or so, while the daughter has to be 10 or less. The chemistry between Steve and Anne is somewhat there, but I need to see more episodes. It gets better between them as the episode goes on, though. Dr. Jim is going to be a classic character. He is the classic sitcom "buddy." He could be on the same page as Larry from Three's Company and more recently Andy on According to Jim. He is just a fun character that gives many laughs. Dan Cortese's character Onno, didn't have much to do in this episode and I didn't see Lorna Scott's character Monica in this episode. And finally, Bob Saget shines in this. He is very funny and better like this than Danny Tanner. The only gripe I have about him here is that it seems Bob is not standing straight at any time. He looks like Big Bird as he is 6'4". Maybe he has a neck or a back problem?


Conclusion:

Well this is certainly a traditional comedy. Comedies of this type are what we need right now. This is ABC's first stab at launching a traditional comedy since believe it or not Crumbs back in January 2006. In the fall of that season (fall 2005) they launched Freddie and Hot Properties, while airing returning series such as According to Jim, Rodney, George Lopez, and Less than Perfect. After that season only Jim and George remained, and then after that just Jim. So the timing seems to be very right for Surviving Suburbia to launch and succeed, as viewers like these types of comedies. CBS's Monday comedies have seen ratings climb this season, as they are the only traditional comedies airing on network TV right now. You won't see this show win any awards like Samantha Who or 30 Rock, but I'm sure this show will outright do much better than single camera sitcoms in the ratings.

The premiere episode is decent. It is not perfect at all, but Bob is good in it. Many fans and TV fans will be tuning in for sure to see Bob return to TV comedy. The promos for the show have been hilarious and most of the stuff in the promos are not for this first episode that is airing. So that is promising that the show will deliver laughs in future episodes. The first one they are airing is not the greatest episode probably of this show, but I see lots of potential and viewers should stick around to see them all. ABC says they have added a new into to this episode with the family watching and talking about Dancing with the Stars. That was not in the version I saw, but can't wait to see that. Hopefully they don't edit anything out, because the version I saw starts with Steve talking to his daughter. Tune in Monday at 9:30pm on ABC because we need the traditional sitcom to come back!


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4/5
Funniness: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

-- Reviewed by pavanbadal on 04/03/09

Discuss the show after you watch it on Monday, April 6 on our message board.

Related Links:

  • ABC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • Surviving Suburbia Photo Gallery




  • Finally, we end today with some news! As promised, I will reveal what sitcom Lifetime TV has acquired! They have acquired the Cybill Shepherd '90s sitcom Cybill! The show will launch on Monday, May 4, airing weekdays at 8am & 8:30am and 2am ET/PT. The morning airings will replace Still Standing, which will still remain in the 6pm hour, and the late night airing will replace encores of original sitcom Rita Rocks. Cybill aired for four seasons from 1995-1998 on CBS.
    Cybill was last seen on cable on Oxygen earlier this decade for a few years. Cybill Shepherd is starring on the Lifetime sitcom pilot Alligator Point, a comedy about an eccentric group of Floridians who find refuge in the southern hospitality of Mae's Oyster Bar. So with the pick-up of Cybill, maybe that sitcom will be ordered to series? Kelsey Grammer is producing the pilot. We will let you know if it gets picked-up.
    Other schedule changes for Lifetime in May 2009 is original series Cook Yourself Thin replacing the third Wife Swap airing. That will air weekdays at 5:00pm & 5:30pm starting Monday, May 4. 20 episodes have been ordered. Based on the hit British series and popular cookbook, Cook Yourself Thin encourages women to lose weight by changing their eating habits. So after that series concludes, Cybill will also air in the early evenings, airing at 5:00pm & 5:30pm starting Tuesday, May 26. It will also air in its other timeslots as well.
    Rita Rocks will return with new episodes sometime this summer, while new episodes of Army Wives begins Sunday, June 7 at 10pm for its third season (18 episodes).


    New on DVD/Blu-ray (March)

    Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. - The Complete Series Bewitched - Seasons 5 & 6 (Mill Creek) Maude - The Complete Series WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete First Season (Shout! Factory) The Donna Reed Show - Season 2 (MPI Home Video)

    03/03 - CHiPs - The Complete Third Season
    03/10 - Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. - The Complete Series
    03/10 - Hey Dude - The Complete Series (Walmart Exclusive)
    03/10 - Petticoat Junction - Family Favorite Episodes
    03/17 - Bewitched - Season 5 (Mill Creek)
    03/17 - Bewitched - Season 6 (Mill Creek)
    03/17 - Bewitched - Seasons 5 & 6 (Mill Creek)
    03/17 - Maude - The Complete Series (Shout! Factory)
    03/17 - WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete First Season (Shout! Factory)
    03/17 - WKRP in Cincinnati - The Complete Second Season (Shout! Factory)
    03/24 - The Donna Reed Show - Season 2 (MPI Home Video)
    03/31 - Silicon Valley - Season 1 (Blu-ray)
    03/31 - Veep - The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)
    More TV DVD Releases / DVD Reviews Archive / SitcomsOnline Digest


    Sitcoms Airing Tonight

    Tuesday, March 31

    Fresh Off the Boat - "Blind Spot" (ABC, 8:00PM ET/PT)
    Jessica's college boyfriend, Oscar Chow (guest star Rex Lee), comes to visit. She’s a bit miffed that Louis isn’t a little more jealous….but she’s got a blind spot and is completely oblivious to the fact that Oscar is gay. Meanwhile, Eddie goes to great lengths to get out of the school science fair.

    New Girl - "The Right Thing" (Fox, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    Jess crashes a funeral, hoping to delete a “sext” she recently sent to the deceased. Then, Schmidt’s mom, Louise (Nora Dunn), arrives in town for a visit to demand he write thank-you notes for his bar mitzvah gifts, and Winston is desperate to be off-duty friends with his police partner, Aly (guest star Nasim Pedrad).

    Weird Loners - "Weird Pilot" (Fox, 9:30PM ET/PT)
    Find out what happens when a high-strung romantic, a serial womanizer, a free-spirited heartbreaker and a sheltered man-child are unexpectedly thrust into a Queens, NY, townhouse.

    Undataeable - "An Imaginary Torch Walks Into a Bar" (NBC, 9:00PM ET/PT)
    ustin's (Brent Morin) world is rocked when Nicki (guest star Briga Heelan) returns to Detroit and announces that she's engaged. To prove that he is cool with her moving on, Justin offers up the bar for her engagement party and Danny (Chris D'Elia) helps him make an important realization. Meanwhile, Burski (Rick Glassman) his miguided pursuit of Leslie (Bianca Kajlich), but Candace (Bridgit Mendler) helps the gang see his romantic side.

    One Big Happy - "Crushing It" (NBC, 9:30PM ET/PT)
    On a group trip to the gym, Lizzy (Elisha Cuthbert) spies her secret crush, Kate (guest star Erinn Hayes) and with the help of Luke (Nick Zano ), and Prudence(Kelly Brook), she initiates a conversation that leads to some plans for group bowling. Later, Luke and Prudence help get Lizzy an appointment with the best OB-GYN in the city and Lizzy is ecstatic - until they arrive to a big surprise. Meanwhile, Prudence realizes that Lizzy's pregnancy is making her feel left out and Leisha (Rebecca Corry) helps her explain her feelings to Luke.

    Cougar Town - "Mary Jane's Last Dance" TBS, 10:30PM ET/PT)
    Grayson is determined to prevent Jules from running her birthday, but it will it be possible when everyone has major changes in their lives?

    Sirens - "Six Feet Over/Under" (USA Network, 10:00PM ET/PT)
    When Johnny's father goes into a coma, his mother places bets on the time of his death; the guys suffer an ear worm.

    Younger - "Pilot" / "Liza Sows Her Oates" (TV Land, 10:00PM ET/PT)
    "Pilot" - 40-year-old Liza (Sutton Foster) passes herself off as 26 to land a job in the field of her dreams. Now she just has to make sure no one discovers her secret. Also stars Hilary Duff, Debi Mazar, Nico Tortorella and Miriam Shor.
    "Liza Sows Her Oates" - As she settles into her new 26 year-old life, Liza is tasked with marketing an older writer to a younger audience. Although she has a perfect date with Josh, she tries to convince herself to aim for someone more age-appropriate.

    Complete TV Listings


    Sitcom Stars on Talk Shows (Week of March 30) (All times ET unless noted)

    Tuesday, March 31

    • Josh Gad (The Comedians/1600 Penn/Back to You) - Catch Josh on The Late Show with David Letterman at 11:35pm on CBS. He also talks about The Comedians on NBC's Today in the 9am hour. He can be heard on The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick on Sirius OutQ channel 106 sometime between 7-11am.
    • Thomas Lennon (The Odd Couple/Sean Saves the World/Reno 911!) and Matthew Perry (The Odd Couple/Go On/Mr. Sunshine/Friends) - Thomas and Matthew are guests on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) - Aubrey appears on The Late Late Show with James Corden at 12:37am on CBS.
    • Rick Glassman, Bianca Kajlich and Ron Funches (Undateable) - Rick, Bianca and Ron are guests on @midnight on Comedy Central at midnight.
    • Chris D'Elia (Undateable/Whitney) - Chris visits Late Night with Seth Meyers at 12:36am on NBC. He will also be on the AOL Build Show.
    • Mario Cantone (Sex and the City) - Mario joins Meredith to chat about the hottest celebrity beauty treatments and if they could be right for you on The Meredith Vieira Show, so check your local listings.
    • Hilary Duff (Younger/Lizzie McGuire) - Hilary joins the Chew Crew on ABC's The Chew at 1pm ET/12pm PT/CT.
    • Kristin Chenoweth (Kristin) - Kristn discusses On the 20th Century on NBC's Today sometime between 7-9am.
    • Elisha Cuthbert (One Big Happy/Happy Endings) and Nick Zano (One Big Happy/What I Like About You) - Elisha and Nick talk about One Big Happy on NBC's Today in the 10am hour. Nick can be heard on Wake Up with Taylor on Sirius Stars channel 109 sometime between 6-9am. He will also be on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
    • Peter Facinelli (Nurse Jackie) - Peter talks about American Odyssey on NBC's Today in the 10am hour.
    • Debi Mazar (Younger/Entourage/Working) - Debi can be heard on The Morning Jolt with Larry Flick on Sirius OutQ channel 106 sometime between 7-11am.
    • Sutton Foster and Nico Tortorella (Younger) - Sutton and Nico talk about TV Land's Younger on New York Live on WNBC in New York at 12:30pm ET.
    • Mo'Nique (The Parkers) - Mo'Nique is a guest on Access Hollywood Live, so check your local listings.
    • Raven-SymonĂ© (That's So Raven/Hangin' with Mr. Cooper/The Cosby Show) - Raven-SymonĂ© guest co-hosts The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
    • Caroline Rhea (Sabrina, the Teenage Witch) - Caroline guest co-hosts The View on ABC at 11am ET/10am CT-PT.
    • Kal Penn (We Are Men/How I Met Your Mother) - Kal appears on VH1's Big Morning Buzz Live at 9am.