In one of those strange twists TV tends to produce, Nickelodeon and ABC have churned out almost exactly the same sitcom within a week of each other, only with different titles and racial make-ups. Enter “Instant Mom,” a fluffy half-hour of silliness coming to Nick at Nite, starring Tia Mowry-Hardrict as the young party gal who marries an older guy and inherits three kids. While this should not be confused with “Trophy Wife,” the ABC series, viewers who do are to be forgiven.
Granted, there are some cosmetic differences, like Sheryl Lee Ralph (currently featured on the other end of the spectrum in “Ray Donovan”) as the disapproving mother of Mowry-Hardrict’s Stephanie, who has trouble finding opportunities to have sex with her doctor husband Charlie (“Spin City’s” Michael Boatman) when the three kids are around.
Those weekend visits, however, are naturally about to become more permanent, further complicating Stephanie’s home life, as she struggles to be both a friend and authority figure to, in particular, Charlie’s teenage daughter (Sydney Park), even going so far as to share a slinky party dress with her, before being told she can’t let the kid go carousing on a school night.
Frankly, if there’s a weak link here, it’s Mowry-Hardrict, having spent so much time growing up in sitcoms with her twin sister Tamera that she seems virtually incapable of delivering a line without anticipating the rim shot. The kids, in fact, are actually pretty adorable, including Tylen Williams (a dead ringer for his older brother Tyler, who starred in “Everybody Hates Chris”) as the precocious middle child.
Overall, “Instant Mom” is mild and unobjectionable, and does touch (broadly) on blended-family scenarios with which a lot of kids can no doubt relate. It’s also worth noting the show is essentially color-blind — employing African-American actors, but dealing in universal themes and sitcom situations.
Nick airs this sort of thing largely to give the family an inoffensive option to watch as kids give up sole control of the box, and to that extent, “Instant Mom” fits those marching orders. Yet in terms of bringing anything fresh to the assignment, it’s perhaps a little too well titled, inasmuch as the moment it’s over, “Mom” is instantly forgotten.