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).


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