Saturday, September 22, 2012

The First Family

Unfortunately, my Tivo went on the fritz last night and still has not recovered. I'm currently running a long diagnostic test on the Tivo (and the hard drive expander), but it lasts for hours! (Still going, in fact.) I really need my Tivo to recover before next week when all the new shows arrive. I'll miss everything unless I try to break out an old VCR and find some blank tapes.

Luckily, I do have a TV not connected to the Tivo, so I was able to watch The First Family today when the first two episodes aired. It's not like a Tyler Perry sitcom but more like the old fashioned sitcoms on UPN or The WB. It doesn't hurt that the cast includes Jackée, Marla Gibbs, and Gladys Knight.

The show centers around a fictional black President named William Johnson, his wife and kids, and the in-laws on both sides. The Johnsons have four children, two daughters and two sons. Two of the children are young, while two are teenagers, but I don't know all their names yet. The First Lady's sister is Jackée, living at the White House in order to help take care of the kids, but she aspires to be a Hollywood star. The grandparents are also featured, as well as a White House butler named Bernard. There are presidential advisers and speechwriters too, but the show is very light on politics.

The plots are a little too pat so far, with the President's family life always mirroring the current problems in his job. When his children talk to him about bullies in their lives, President Johnson happens to be in a conflict with a foreign dictator who is bullying a neighboring country. When the children bring home report cards from school, the President receives his own "report card" in the form of unfavorable polls about his job performance and likeability. If the parallels continue to be this close, it will be annoying.

However I did enjoy some funny moments, such as one of the daughters hiding her report card and panicking when she thinks she's caught, while Bernard the butler simply says he doesn't care. The President and First Lady have a nice, loving relationship, with believable sexual chemistry. They are almost too ideal as parents, talking to the kids almost as if they were wise parents like Mike and Carol Brady dispensing life lessons. It's pleasant, though, and one of the boys gives off an impression of being like a young Theo Huxtable. So I'll continue watching.

Overall I liked this show better than the one that followed: Mr. Box Office. Also created by Byron Allen, and sold in the same package deal with The First Family, Mr. Box Office is about a movie star who gets in trouble with the law and then is sentenced to do community service by teaching English at an inner-city high school. (He did have a teaching degree before he became a star.) Though I like some of the familiar cast here too (including Tim Meadows and the brother from Everybody Hates Chris), this show felt more gimmicky, with the silly selfishness of the movie star's agent (Jon Lovitz) and the entourage of buddies who sponge off the star. The star's lawyer eventually gets the sentence suspended, but the star, out of the goodness of his heart has decided to continue teaching the kids, while doing movies in the summer. It's rather implausible and more slapsticky, I think.

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