UPN has the opportunity to achieve crossover success with “Half and Half,” a family sitcom that, like ABC’s “My Wife in Kids,” explores universal experiences through a predominately black cast. But that opportunity could easily slip away if the writers continue to indulge in sex jokes and femme cliches that blanket the series debut. Just when it appears to be off to a sophisticated start, ill-placed references paired with an overzealous laughtrack jar viewers back to the land of mediocre TV.
Mona Thorne (Rachel True) is a record company executive living in one of her wealthy father’s many apartment buildings in San Francisco. Despite an established career and close relationship with mom Phyllis (Telma Hopkins), Mona is resentful of the time and attention her father spends with his new family, specifically half-sister Dee Dee (Essence Atkins).
Phyllis reinforces these insecurities and resentments almost daily by recounting in detail the exact moment when her father left them for Big Dee Dee (Valarie Pettiford), a super-competitive and particularly nasty diva.
Mona is excited about the prospect of moving into the top-floor apartment until she learns that her father has also promised the place to young Dee Dee. A chance for sibling bonding turns into a war of wills spearheaded by the two meddling mothers.
The basic concept of two very different sisters — one country, one city — coming together in harmony is a little too precious, but True, adept at both physical comedy and biting sarcasm, and Atkins, who plays goofy without being ditzy, pull it off with earnestness.
For “Half” to really work, however, the producers must realize that there’s a fine line between funny and fury even if True plays Mona’s simmering resentment without real malice. To continue this squabble between the haves and have-nots will require a more delicate touch than displayed in the pilot.
Offering some comic relief amid the bickering is Chico Benymon as Spencer, Mona’s friend who conveniently lacks a life of his own.
Technical credits are perfunctory save for Lynn Griffin’s production design, which aptly illustrates the separate but equal lifestyles.