Part of the 10-series deal Steven Bochco has with ABC, the new Hawaii-based family drama with Timothy Busfield as widowed dad Sam Byrd springs open with good characters and good direction by Bradley Silberling. Looks like producers/creators/writers Charles Eglee and Channing Gibson, though faced with “Dr. Quinn’s” new timeslot on CBS, have locked into a viable if familiar concept for family viewing.
Sam, philosophy professor at Yale, is new headmaster of private Palmer School (it’s not clear why he got the new job) and has to learn the ropes about handling native students and faculty.
He’s also having problems working with dean of students Healani Douglas (Elizabeth Lindsey), who openly resents Sam taking the post she feels should be hers. She just happens to be beautiful.
The young Byrds — Seth Green as Harry, 16, decent and sharp; Jennifer Love Hewitt playing Franny, 15, who loathes moving from New England; and 11-year-old Zeke (Ryan O’Donohue), getting back at his mom’s death by angrily acting out — settle into a comfortable house and attend Palmer. First hour ably establishes their characters, while Sam comes off as Mr. Nice Guy.
The youngsters’ problems and Sam’s new life presumably will provide fodder for stories, which will determine the series’ future. Sentiment’s kept to a minimum, but the family’s climb to a volcano crater to toss in leis is first-rate tear-jerking.
Mainlanders’ difficulties — the lingo, keeping a pet in quarantine for four months, local economic problems — give the program heft. Throwaway humor such as what happened to the ex-headmaster or how a housekeeper interviewee can’t handle civilization’s noises fill in corners.
Busfield’s restrained Sam Byrd suggests reserve strength, and Lindsey is first-rate. Actors limning the Byrd children are terrif; other cast members give fresh, open perfs. Solid, commercial TV, “The Byrds of Paradise” plays comfortably and attractively.
Tech credits are fine.