is not that comedy.
It's too early to say whether "In the Motherhood" will find a big audience (its odds aren't great, given that it premieres opposite both "American Idol" and CBS' March Madness coverage on Thursday). But the show, based on a web series of the same name, mostly consists of reheated jokes about the difficulties of being a mom, and despite a talented cast's efforts to inject them with new life, leftovers are still leftovers.
The show stars Cheryl Hines ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") as Jane, a recently separated and constantly harried mother to a teenager and a baby; Jessica St. Clair as Emily, her smug younger sister, a stay-at-home mom who likes to point out how perfect her life is; and Megan Mullally ("Will & Grace") as Rosemary, the bohemian mother of a sometimes-discussed but never-seen (not in the first two episodes, anyway) teenage son. When they're not with their kids, they're with each other, commiserating and subtly (or in Emily's case, not so subtly) competing to see who's got it worse or who does it better.
The three actresses — and former "Saturday Night Live" regular Horatio Sanz, who plays Jane's "manny" — play off one another well, and there's some mild amusement to be had just in watching their reactions to one another. But the stories — honest-at-all-costs Emily tells her kids there's no Santa Claus, Jane locks herself out of the house on the manny's day off — all feel like things we've heard many times before. The show is surely looking to tap some well of universal experience, but what comes across is more, "Oh, this again."
And this may have something to do with its roots as an online series, but the show is so loosely structured that it often feels more like a series of strung-together vignettes than an actual plot. Playing out a couple of short and vaguely connected sketches in a six- or seven-minute webisode works fine, but over the course of a half-hour show the thinness of the plot becomes glaringly hard to ignore.
The result is a show that sort of meanders along, spinning slight variations on familiar setups. Mullally gets most of the best lines as Rosemary, and St. Clair plays condescending pretty well. Those moments don't come often enough, though, to make up for the sense of having seen it all before that pervades "In the Motherhood."
"In the Motherhood" premieres at 8:30 p.m. ET Thursday on ABC. Here are a couple of sneak peeks at the show.