Ed Asner rumbles back onto the TV trail as a gruff grandpa with heart, but the material’s pretty tame. He’s a widower whose divorced daughter and three children move into his home and life. The tired concept wouldn’t draw flies, but Asner’s savvy may be able to pull the old chestnut out of the fire.
Gil Jones (Asner, who’s got a good handle on the role), active owner of the Thunder Alley Garage, finds daughter Bobbi Turner (Diana Venora) and her kids — Claudine, 11, Jenny, 8, and son Harry, 5 — on his not-so-welcome mat. Gil and Bobbi’s generational viewpoints are dismally obvious, and their outlooks on discipline are routine.
Venora’s Bobbi pushes too hard, but the kids — Kelly Vint as Claudine, Lindsay Felton as Jenny, and Haley Joel Osment as Harry — become instant, credible individuals. Gil talking to an unhappy Claudine about how he met her grandmother, Harry becoming “invisible” are OK distractions, but the program needs more controversy than deciding how kids should be punished.
“Thunder Alley’s” a pleasantly average half-hour, and director Barnet Kellman handles the mild material well. But what it boils down to is a sitcom with heart and Asner. Maybe it’s enough.