A title like "Sons and Daughters" has a generic ring, doesn't it? But for the new CBS drama series, even "generic" is too flattering a term. So is "competent" or "coherent."
This isn't just bad, it's irritating, as irritating as those plastic grocery bags that fall over in the car on the way home; as irritating as commercials for Sports Illustrated magazine that air 564 times a day; as irritating as aspirin bottles that refuse to open when you have a screaming, shrieking headache.
Come to think of it, this show is a screaming, shrieking headache. It's one of those adult-sized bangeroos Robert Urich is always complaining about.
The much-delayed premiere, at 10 tonight on Channel 9, introduces the far-too-innumerable members of an overextended family, the yammering Hammersmiths of Portland, Ore. Irrepressible Tess (Lucie Arnaz, in under her head) lives with her adopted Asian daughter Astrid (Michelle Wong), while irrepressible brother-in-law Spud (Rick Rossovich, much too young-looking for the part) and irrepressible wife Patti (Peggy Smithhart) struggle to raise their irrepressible son Rocky (Paul Scherrer), who thinks he's handsome.
To complicate matters, though not enough to make them interesting, Rocky idolizes his mother's brother, the irrepressible Uncle Gary (Scott Plank) who loves having sex with irrepressible wife Lindy (Stacy Edwards). Into the stew plops super-ham Don Murray as Bing, the clan's irrepressible dad.
Quick, someone repress these people before it's too late.
A muddled and smuttied-up combination of "thirtysomething" and "Parenthood," with none of either show's virtues, "Sons and Daughters" spends a lot of time on everybody's sex life. Spud is referred to as "Spud the Stud" and crawls to his wife's bed in a towel, while Gary, in next week's episode, is stripped of his shirt and pants by randy Lindy, who complains she hasn't had an orgasm since their baby, Dakota, was born.
Dakota? Yes, it's that kind of show. Dakota also happens to be the name of a new character to be introduced on the revamped "Paradise," now called "Guns of Paradise," which also bows tonight. A more unsavory coincidence: Just as on the NBC comedy "Blossom" that premiered yesterday, the unseen villain of "Sons and Daughters" is a mother, Bing's wife, who deserted the family to pursue a career in the arts.
Is there an island of lost mothers somewhere where all these women make pottery and play the cello?
One improvement made as of the second episode is that Murray is mercifully absent, and the unmanageably large cast seems to have been population-pruned. But in a desperate effort to alleviate the monstrous boredom of it all, the producers hype up the sex stuff.
Lindy seeks guidance on her orgasm problem from Patti (wife of Spud, remember?) and that gives Patti the opportunity to deliver this wowser of a lecture on caring and sharing and getting off in the oh-so-sensitive '90s:
"Spud and I do have great sex -- a lot, actually -- but it isn't just because I love the feel of his body in bed, or he loves the smell of my skin. ... It's because we are as open and together as two people can be. ... Nothing is greater than sex with a man who cares enough to truly know and love everything about you... ."
Oh, shut up!
In the interest of fair play, there is one nice thing about the show that might be noted. George D. Wallace, who plays cranky Hank, everybody's (or somebody's) grandpa, happens to be the very same actor who starred as Commando Cody, Sky Marshal of the Universe, in the Republic serial "Radar Men From the Moon." Really!
Playing cranky Hank on "Sons and Daughters" is, indeed, quite a step down from Sky Marshal of the Universe. But then, this series is a step down for everybody.