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TELEVISION & RADIO | TUNED IN

Will it turn into 'My Wife and Grandkids'?

September 24, 2003|Scott Sandell | Times Staff Writer

Kids do the darndest things -- like having kids of their own.

Though that's nothing new, perhaps it's a sign of the times when a teenage, out-of-wedlock pregnancy can be sitcom fodder without a heavy dose of sappiness creeping into the mix.

Yet that's what ABC's "My Wife and Kids" pulls off as it begins its fourth season tonight at 8 with back-to-back episodes. Just as the heads of the Kyle household (Damon Wayans and Tisha Campbell-Martin) are ready to see their son Junior off to college, the news comes: Junior (George O. Gore II) and his girlfriend, Vanessa (Brooklyn Sudano), are having a baby.

Rather than react with one of those "very special" moments that can turn otherwise crisp comedies into mushy drama, the Kyles express some righteous anger at their son. Indeed, he suffers a brutal pillow beating at the hands of his mom.

After anger, though, comes acceptance of the fact that the hopelessly naive Junior will be a father in a matter of months. What to do? The answer, Wayans' character concludes, is to turn the boy into a man by teaching him how to survive in the working world, toeing the thin line between tough love and cruelty. Naturally, the plan backfires in more ways than one.

Besides sharp writing from Don Reo in the first half-hour and from Kevin Rooney in the second, "My Wife and Kids" benefits greatly from Wayans' ability to go from stern paternal figure one moment to goofy husband the next. Whether he's laying down the law or pretending to be Stevie Wonder at the keyboard, he's always entertaining.

As this season progresses, it will be interesting to see how the show deals with what will doubtless become an even messier situation. Will Junior and Vanessa have the baby and keep it? Will they survive as a couple? Will the title change to "My Wife and Kids: The Next Generation"?

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