'Grown Ups': Weak sitcom
bodes tough season for UPN
Humor is not as sharp as on 'Friends'
By Andrew Wallenstein
Leading off UPNs early-premiere strategy is the dull sitcom
"Grown Ups" (premieres tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET, moves to Monday, 9 p.m., time
slot beginning Aug. 30). If the network thinks unveiling their new series in August
instead of October will reverse their sagging fortunes, think again: The early launch will
probably succeed only in whetting viewer appetites for the other networks.
"Grown Ups" begins what is sure to be a long, hard
season for UPN. Maybe not as horrifying as 1998-99, where viewership plummeted a
staggering 40 percent in November and six of seven pilots were canceled, but struggling
nonetheless. The network picked an unimpressive crop of pilots for the fall, and
"Grown Ups" is no exception.
The sitcom stars Jaleel White, the former child actor best
remembered as the nerdy Urkel from the long-running ABC sitcom "Family Matters."
He sheds the geek persona for his role as a sensitive twentysomething aspiring to that
suspended-immaturity stage of life that seems a lot funnier on NBCs
"Friends." Executive producers Matthew Miller and Jonathan Prince are clearly
modeling their series on that top-rated sitcom, but the humor isnt nearly as sharp.
White is a good casting move despite the fact that he nor his
supporting players are remotely engaging. Although "Grown Ups" is consistently
lame, viewers may sample the pilot for no other reason than to see what Urkel looks like
as an adult. The novelty will also undoubtedly attract some media attention.
Will "Grown Ups" be retired early like UPN early-exit
predecessors "The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer" and "DiResta"?
Not necessarily. The sitcom should benefit from being
tucked into UPNs solid ethnic-programming block, which was moved from Tuesday along
with returning anchor "Moesha" at 8 p.m. Unless the new "Moesha"
spin-off "The Parkers" at 8:30 p.m. is singularly awful, "Grown Ups"
could draw enough of an urban audience to stay afloat. "Malcolm & Eddie"
rounds out the evening at 9:30 p.m.
Still, if theres one brick in the nights programming
block susceptible to crumble, its "Grown Ups." Monday at 9 p.m. is a
ferociously competitive time slot, with ABCs "Monday Night Football,"
CBSs "Everybody Loves Raymond" and Fox's "Ally McBeal" checking
in. UPN at least had enough sense not to schedule anything good there. Premiering the
sitcom a half-hour earlier in the wake of "Moesha" helps, too.
-Andrew Wallenstein is a New York