On new sitcoms, home is where the heart is

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2003

NEW YORK There's no place like home especially for characters on many of the new fall TV comedies.

Whether retreating to the nest in desperation or getting sucked back in against their will, these new heroes demonstrate an epidemic: TV-show homesickness.

The trend isn't new, of course.

Nearly 50 years ago, orphaned Kelly Gregg landed on the doorstep of her man-about-town uncle (played by John Forsythe), forever after to cramp his style on the sitcom ''Bachelor Father.''

Now, on CBS' ''Two and a Half Men,'' the bachelor pad of man-about-town Charlie Sheen is invaded by his nephew and his nerdy brother, played by Jon Cryer, whose wife has thrown him out.

''This is just a couple of days, max,'' the brother promises. Or, if the series clicks, five or six years.

On UPN's ''All About the Andersons,'' Anthony Anderson plays a struggling actor and single dad who moves back with his own parents to give his son a stable home environment while exposing himself to his father's criticism for not getting a real job.

On yet another sitcom, ABC's ''Hope & Faith,'' down-and-out soap actress Faith (Kelly Ripa) crashes with the midwestern family of her sister, Hope (Faith Ford).

And on the WB's ''Like Family,'' a middle-class black family welcomes an old friend, newly single white mom Maddie, along with her teenage son, into the household until they can get back on their feet. Sense a theme here?

On the WB's ''Run of the House,'' three siblings, each suffering setbacks in adulthood, retreat to their childhood home to join their 15-year-old sister. But, oddly enough, the parents are away on an extended trip.

Not so lucky are John Larroqu-ette and Christine Baranski as the parents on NBC's ''Happy Fam-ily,'' who had happily awaited their grown children leaving home for good.

''It'll just be you and me again,'' he tells her the night their youngest is supposed to graduate from junior college. But their plans are dashed when all three offspring spring back, each in a jam.

''They're never really out of the house, are they?'' sighs distraught Dad to dismayed Mom.

Of course, for some TV people, home is just a four-letter word.

On ABC's ''Married to the Kellys,'' Tom Wagner (played by Breckin Meyer) would much prefer to stay put in New York. But his wife calls Kansas City home and that's where she wants to be in the warm embrace of the family just waiting to suffocate poor Tom.

And on Fox's zany ''Arrested Development,'' Jason Bateman plays a young widower who thought he and his son had broken free from their weird clan, only to find he's pulled back to save the family business when his father is jailed for financial fraud.

But the way he looks at it, he has no choice.

''What comes before anything?'' he says to his son.

''Breakfast?''

No! Family! And never more than this fall, sitcom families are being called home.

EDITOR'S NOTE Frazier Moore can be reached at fmoore(at)ap.org



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