Moving from features to the new Warner Bros. netlet, Robert Townsend buys into conventional black sitcom format, exhuming characters and situations dating back to his youth. The vintage elements in “The Parent ‘Hood” are more hackneyed than nostalgic; more insulting than uplifting.
Townsend plays Robert Peterson, a college professor and family man. His wife , Jerri (Suzzanne Douglas) is a law student, and they’re the parents of four children: teenagers Michael (Kenny Blank) and Zaria (Reagan Gomez-Preston), and moppets Nicholas (Curtis Williams) and CeCe (Ashli Adams).
The children are more smart-aleck than smart, never missing an opportunity for a wisecrack, no matter how inappropriate.
There’s the standard-issue friend/neighbor who drops in through always-unlocked doors (Derek Sawyer) — this is in New York City, mind you — and an older woman, lusty Mrs. Wilcox (Carol Woods), who irritates everybody. It’s the LaWanda Page role from “Sanford & Son.”
There’s a Rush Limbaugh fat joke in the first line or two of dialogue; Zaria makes fun of Nicholas’ lack of height (no funnier than when Will Smith makes the same jokes about Carlton in “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”); and when Zaria mentions a friend named Nyquila, Robert — who presumably had something to do with naming his own daughter — has the nerve to make fun of the friend’s exotic handle.
Debut episode finds Michael and Zaria trying to con their parents into giving them permission to take possession of grandmother’s automobile by asking for something more severe — tattoos and body piercing, respectively — and then bargaining down to the more reasonable car. Robert and Jerri discover the plot and retaliate by taking the kids to a body-piercing and tattoo shop.
Everybody overacts, dialogue in Ellen L. Fogle’s script is either trite or stilted, as when Michael says, “My first tentative steps toward manhood are being thwarted.”
Funniest character, again a cartoon, is Mrs. Wilcox’s ex-con son, Wendell (Faizon Love), who is evidently not a regular.
Looking at the bright side, there are only two ways this show can go: up or out. Townsend, who takes “created by” credit with Andrew Nicholls and Darrell Vickers, is surely capable of better.