NBC's new one-hour domestic drama series, "The Family Tree," is in part the creation of Carol Evans McKeand and Nigel McKeand, who filled similar roles on the ABC series "Family" a few years ago. If "Family" fairly ached with trendy sensitivity, "Family Tree" oozes, drips, and otherwise shamelessly secretes it. It falls like sap and splats upon the place beneath. One's inclination is to run for cover, preferably to the nearest theater reviving "Night of the Living Dead."
"Family Tree" amounts to Night of the Living Dull. In the program, which premieres at 10 tonight on Channel 4, two divorced persons who are in love decide to marry, to the consternation of their children by previous marriages. Children in chic synthetic TV homes like this are to be groveled to and pampered within inches of their lives, and so tonight's show is a series of hushed discussions--"Can I talk to you?" cues a soulful pairing off--and agonized huddles.
One of the woman's children is a deaf boy named Toby. The family has learned to sign so that Toby can understand them, and this aspect of the show is a breakthrough for a weekly series. But the deafness is occasionally used to mawkish effect that tends to undercut the significance of the great leap forward.
Anne Archer plays the mother, Frank Converse--who's been on so many shows he looks as though he's been run over by them--is the father, and you'd have a hard time finding a more boring pair at any wine and cheese party. At the wedding, they have flute and guitar music (Oh, but of course!) and when they steal away for sexual intercourse, they tell the children they're going out for "Chinese food." An hour later and you're--what? It isn't worth thinking about, and "Family Tree" is hardly what you'd call a thriver.