'Surviving Suburbia'


With the rise of such nontraditional sitcoms as NBC's "30 Rock" and "The Office," it seemed that television comedy was — we dared to hope — maturing. The once fresh, beloved art form of the traditional two-camera, live-audience sitcom had grown feeble and was at last being put out of its misery.

But like a zombie rising comes ABC's "Surviving Suburbia," a conventional, by-the-book alleged laughfest that proves just how inert and lifeless the format can be. (The show, from Media Rights Capital, was salvaged after originally being planned for the CW's Sunday night block, now shelved.)

Bob Saget plays Steve Patterson, a somewhat decent father of two and husband to Cynthia Stevenson's perky Anne; he's a man who doesn't care for his kooky neighbors.

The pilot drops audiences in with no explanation as to what either of the Pattersons do for a living or why we're even stuck in this brightly colored home with them. The story? Let's just say it features misdirection and confusion among characters to produce at first a comic effect, then a moral turnaround. (OK, fine: Steve sets fire to the neighbor's drapes and is called a hero for saving said neighbor's fish.)

On top of everything, the ABC/Disney "synergy" grates: The daughter has a crush on "High School Musical's" Zac Efron, and a list of strippers matches three familiar Disney names: Jasmine, Pocahontas and Bambi. (OK, that's actually kind of funny.)

The attentions of even the biggest couch potatoes will wander with "Suburbia," where even the usually charming lead actor appears to have been woken up from a nap to read his lines. There's a big existential question being posed with "Suburbia": Why?