Bob Saget may be the luckiest man in television right now. His new sitcom, “Surviving Suburbia,” will premiere Monday on ABC following “Dancing with the Stars” — which is about as big an upgrade as a show that was originally destined for Sunday nights on The CW can get.
ABC, however, may not count itself so lucky. I’m sure that picking up the show was a low-risk proposition for the network, but it turns out to be a pretty low-reward one too. “Surviving Suburbia” is stiff and forced, and if ABC is looking for a broad-appeal family sitcom, it better keep looking.
Saget plays Steve Patterson, a suburban father whom the show’s press materials describe as “rather cynical” about his family, his neighbors and life in general. A show about a misanthrope trying to survive in the artificially friendly world of the suburbs might have some potential, but that’s not the show “Surviving Suburbia” is.
Monday’s premiere never actually shows Steve being anything more than a standard-issue, mildly cranky sitcom character, who comes complete with a tolerant wife (Cynthia Stevenson, “Men in Trees”) adorable daughter (G Hannelius) and wise-beyond-his-years teenage son (Jared Kusnitz).
We hear a lot about how people don’t like him and how his wife has paid for it, but we never see it. It’s a classic case of telling instead of showing, and it’s just not very funny. There’s even a lesson tacked on at the end.
The show once again brings up the puzzle that is Bob Saget. As a comedian, he can be very funny — his 2007 HBO special “That Ain’t Right” was often hilarious — but Sitcom Saget never seems to have any of that spark. His heart doesn’t seem to be in “Surviving Suburbia.”
The show will end up with millions more viewers in its new home following one of TV’s biggest shows than it would have on The CW, whose Sunday nights struggle to pull in even 1 million people. (The show was part of The CW’s package deal with studio Media Rights Capital and was to have premiered in November, but the rest of the MRC lineup tanked and was all but gone by then.)
What those millions of folks see, though, will be a show that will be extremely lucky to survive beyond its initial run this spring.
“Surviving Suburbia” premieres at 9:30 p.m. ET Monday, April 6.