As networks peer into HBO’s groundbreaking series for inspiration — and knockoffs — sitcoms like “Hidden Hills” are bound to happen. NBC laffer finds its inspiration in “The Mind of the Married Man,” cleans it up a little and presents an unfortunate look at family life, full of drooling, sex-crazed men; overworked mothers; and, what else, the hot mom down the street who runs a porn Web site. Voiceovers, fantasy scenes and the good ol’ rewind button get played out in a hurry; show’s too gimmicky for the timeslot following the far smarter “Frasier.”
Doug Barber (Justin Louis) appears to be an overburdened Mr. Mom: He’s taking the kids to and from school, driving them to activities and overseeing the softball team and an Indian group. So, it comes as a bit of surprise when he actually goes to a construction site with some blueprints and signs papers that are handed to him.
Wife Janine (Paula Marshall) is constantly on the phone, and it’s hardly surprising, Doug tells us in voiceover, because Hidden Hills is a community of 12,000 people and 15,000 cell phones. She seems to know what’s happening in the kids’ lives yet has little involvement with them. She also seems to ignore her husband, who’s getting antsy about their lack of sex.
Of course the neighbors, Zack and Sarah Timmerman (Dondre T. Whitfield and Tamara Taylor), have sex all the time and no problems.
The neighborhood women do find plenty of time to chit-chat, and soon it gets around that a new resident, single mom Belinda Slypich (Kristin Bauer), runs her own nude modeling site. And, as luck would have it, Belinda becomes Doug’s assistant on the softball team and “Hidden Hills” fades to Playboy-lite fantasy sequences. On the field, though, Doug refuses to look at Belinda and when the situation is rife for a bit of pseudo-sexual misunderstanding, Janine saves the day by playing it cool.
The show’s cast is potentially likable; once they’re given a script that doesn’t feel so derivative and stuck on a single note, show could blossom. Perspective is obviously that of Doug in the super-dad role, but there’s no indication that his perceptions are askew — these are content people with little drama in their lives. And if the mountain-out-of-a-molehill event for each week is strictly sexual, “Hidden Hills” will be running out of steam quickly.
Bob Berlinger’s direction is adequate, though it does play into “been there, done that” hands.