A bake sale! In the pilot of “Hope and Faith,” that’s the contrived, out-of-left-field idea that the writers and producers cooked up to either bring together the dueling aunt, mother and daughter or drive wedges among the three. Predictably, it succeeds at doing both. Banal and derivative, ABC’s attempt to revive the TGIF franchise hinges on the concept that every generation needs its own “Family Matters” or “Full House”; this attempt to create a recipe based on the appeal of those shows backfires so badly, even Kelly Ripa is hard to like.
Hope and Faith are sisters. Hope (Faith Ford) is the mother of three with the clueless husband Charley (Ted McGinley); Faith (Ripa) is the former soap opera star whose character was killed off. Faith is homeless and penniless; Hope is trying to get the kids to eat better and go to school.
As every family sitcom since “Leave It to Beaver” has told us, the deeds of well-meaning relatives create a divide between the wishes of the child and the parent. “Hope and Faith” even goes so far as to have 15-year-old Sydney (Nicole Paggi) use the tried-and-true line of “I wish Aunt Faith was my mother.” The predictability is painful.
Show ends on the usual poignant moment of mom saving the day and the sisters giving each other the thumbs-up on handling certain situations. Of course, that happens after the overblown food fight.
Producers are aware they have a sexy actress in Ford. The attempt to flesh out Hope’s character is through sexual behavior — not quite the tart of her sister, but in the ballpark, though she seems perplexed by a few items in a lingerie store. The mayhem at home that leads up to the bake sale idea also interrupts a lunchhour sexual rendezvous with Charley.
Ripa and Ford are adequate, but the direction, writing and husband role are so lifeless, it would take some truly bizarre occurrences to make this at least unpredictable.
Overall, though, deciding which aspect of the show is more annoying is a toughie. There’s the line, “Faith borrowed your car. I hope you don’t mind,” followed by the sound of a crash. There’s a teary-eyed Ripa and a bubbling Ford singing “High Hopes” that the laugh track finds hysterical. And then, when “Hope and Faith” goes against the trend of naming shows after actors but giving them completely different character names (see “Eve,” “Whoopi”), it fouls things up by giving Ford’s first name to Ripa.