At a time when networks are competing for viewers based upon daring outback antics and tropical island infidelities, a fairly tame family sitcom doesn’t exactly seem like the most logical choice in a close ratings race. That’s not to say ABC’s series “My Wife and Kids,” co-created by and featuring Damon Wayans, isn’t a refreshing change of pace from raunchy reality shows and the highly dysfunctional families that populate primetime. Still ABC would be remiss to think “My Wife and Kids” could pull in bigger numbers than its predecessor “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” As it stands at midseason, however, Wednesday nights at 8 appear to be up for grabs.
An uncharacteristically restrained Wayans stars as Michael Kyle, a successful Stamford, Conn., businessman who has given up the fast lane so that he can relish some quality family time, even if family time has been reduced to total chaos.
As Michael’s life shifts into lower gear, his wife, Janet (Tisha Campbell Martin), decides to step up her stockbroker career. Hardly a Mr. Mom type, Michael has a difficult time in his new role as a stay-at-home dad, especially when it comes to his two teen children Junior (George O. Gore II) and Claire (Jazz Raycole).
This is not “Ozzie and Harriet,” or even “The Cosby Show,” for that matter, but it’s not biting social commentary either. Wayans utilizes his usual physical comedy, but here he’s added a layer of warmth and personality that we haven’t seen from the actor before.
Director Andy Cadiff uses Wayans’ kindler, gentler side to balance what are otherwise rather arcane notions of gender roles and work ethics.
Cadiff also manages to avoid typical sitcom pitfalls of introducing miscellaneous comic relief characters like the meddling neighbor or goofy co-worker. For the most part, the show remains fairly insular with Wayans at the forefront.
That leaves Campbell Martin with less screen time and less to do, but hopefully the family dynamics will even out over time. Production value and tech credits are top notch, although Ellen Brill’s catalog perfect set decoration further exacerbates TV’s unrealistic depictions of middle class life.