"Are We There Yet?," which premieres Wednesday on TBS, is a sitcom sequel to the 2005 theatrical feature of the same name (mostly bad reviews but pretty good box office). Terry Crews stars as Nick, who has married Suzanne (Essence Atkins), who has two children, Lindsey (Teala Dunn) and Kevin (Coy Stewart). Nick has a best friend named Martin (Christian Finnegan), and Suzanne has a best friend named Gigi (Keesha Sharp), both of whom are around all the time, in the sitcom way of things. Less often seen are Suzanne's mother (Telma Hopkins) and brother ( Ice Cube, who played Nick in the film and is an executive producer of the series), a SWAT officer.
As we fade in, they have been a family for only six months and are still defining their roles. Nick thinks it's not too soon for the kids to call him Dad; they'll call him Dad but only ironically and with creepy insistence. But things settle down soon enough to the more usual business of their playing one grown-up off another and when that fails, as it must, everyone learning a lesson in respect.
Crews, who was wonderful as the father on " Everybody Hates Chris," has less interesting things to do here, but he is a friendly presence, not a little reminiscent of the self he plays in his sitcom-like reality show, "The Family Crews," which premiered on BET in February. (His landing "Are We There Yet?" is part of the story line there.) Atkins has the burden of playing the more adult adult, which can make her seem a bit tetchy at times.
But with Finnegan and Sharp — his Martin is inauspiciously described in press materials as "a lovable rogue," and her Gigi is an unfortunately familiar TV type, the hot, kind of dumb girl who goes from one rich unseen boyfriend to another — taking the weight of the wackiness, like human flying buttresses, Crews and Atkins get to behave more or less like real, reasonable people.
It is so far minor stuff, inconsistent in tone and not particularly original yet fundamentally sweet and, if not stared at too hard, appealing. Occasionally it gets on to an interesting or unusual track — Nick and Kevin's arguing football versus futbol, for instance. But notwithstanding the presence of "Everybody Hates Chris" vet Ali LeRoi as show runner, the series is (on three episodes' evidence) still too subscribed to sitcom solutions to sitcom situations to be actually convincing on the subject of family, or any sort of actual human relations. It is just nice people telling jokes.
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