"Like Family" attempts to debunk the long held myth that all great family bonding takes place around the dinner table. The center of the universe for the average family, according to series creator and writer Dan Fogelman, is the bathroom. Yet even with an inordinate amount of time spent in the bathroom, series about two lifelong friends blending families is remarkably inoffensive.

“Like Family” attempts to debunk the long held myth that all great family bonding takes place around the dinner table. The center of the universe for the average family, according to series creator and writer Dan Fogelman, is the bathroom. Yet even with an inordinate amount of time spent in the bathroom, series about two lifelong friends blending families is remarkably inoffensive.

Holly Robinson Peete and Diane Farr star as best friends Tanya and Maddie, who decide to band together in the ongoing battle to raise teenagers. Maddie has long felt that the absence of a father figure has had a negative affect on her now slightly rebellious 16-year-old son Keith (J. Mack Slaughter). With her corporate job on the fast track, Maddie can’t devote enough attention to Keith, so she moves in with stay-at-home mom Tanya, who seems more than ready to keep him and everyone else in line. Tanya, a lawyer turned homemaker, keeps a loving but tight watch on her husband Ed (Kevin Michael Richardson), her over-achieving teen daughter Danika (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and 12-year-old Bobby (B.J. Mitchell)

When the jokes aren’t about bathrooms, they’re based on the simple fact Maddie and Keith are white and Tanya and family are black. Ed pretends Keith is his son in public while young Bobby tells Keith he’s like the big white brother he never had. The notion is contrived and any real racial issues don’t come into the mix, at least not in the pilot.

Past these manufactured devices, however, is an underlying message that gives the show a modicum of charm. The overwhelming need for family proves to be a great equalizer regardless of color or culture.

Peete is likeable, although not necessarily believable — she doesn’t look old enough to have a teenager, let alone the sort of sage wisdom about parenting that Tanya possesses. And like countless other sitcoms, “Like Family” exists in that universe where beautiful young women are married to big goofy oafs. For Peete, the show’s star, it’s a distraction. Richardson, as the big Teddy Bear of a dad and husband, tends to steal just about every scene.

Still, Farr and Pete have a believable rapport, and fresh-looking Echikunwoke has got young WB breakout star quality written all over her. Newcomers Slaughter and Mitchell are still fairly stiff, delivering lines like they have audience reaction in mind.

Show should fit nicely into the Frog’s Friday night comedy lineup, sandwiched between proven products “Reba” and “Grounded for Life.” Skein goes up against a slate of other freshman shows — “Married to the Kellys,” “Luis,” “Joan of Arcadia” and “Miss Match.”

Like Family

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Littlefield Co. in association with Warner Bros. Television Prod. Executive producers, Rick Wiener, Kenny Schwartz, Warren Littlefield; co-executive producer, Dan Fogelman; producer, Ernest Johnson; director, Barnet Kellman; writer, Dan Fogelman;

Crew

camera, Juluis Metoyer; editors, Dennis Vejar, Stuart Bass; music, Marc Bonilla; casting, Liz Marx, Lauren Klink. Running time: 30 MIN.

Cast

Tanya - Holly Robinson Peete Maddie - Diane Farr Keith - J. Mack Slaughter Ed - Kevin Michael Richardson Danika - Megalyn Echikunwoke Bobby - B.J. Mitchell Pop - J. Anthony Brown
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