The ratio of failure in the TV business is known to be extremely high for most shows versus success. Who knows the exact reason something works as opposed to something that doesn’t. For example, this season Revolution has worked after years of similar and some would argue, better, genre shows have failed. (The success of the show extends beyond the cushy timeslot after The Voice. Its DVR gains are up there with big hits like The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family). But one could argue that timing probably has an effect on how or when a show might work. Sometimes a timeslot can work against a show as well. But the success of ABCs single camera family comedy smash Modern Family and even to a lesser degree, The Middle, makes me think they should take another wack at their 2005 gem, Sons & Daughters. It might possibly be the best and most compatible show to air after Modern Family.
S&D was co created by Fred Goss who also starred as Cameron. (Lorne Michaels was also an EP). The episodes told stories regarding his large and very extended family. Fred’s character Cameron was sold as the sanest of the bunch, but even watching some of the antics on You Tube there are lots of Phil Dunphyisms to Cameron. While the show was shot as single cam, it resembles more of Curb Your Enthusiams improv structure than the mockumentary format MF uses. In fact the episodes were largely constructed based on an outline with the actors improvising just like Curb. There is also a more indie movie quality to the show than the current single camera network shows. If ABC would redevelop it, it might be worth tightening it up more to fit with their other comedies a tad better, but either way this appears to be a case of a show a little ahead of its time. The show featured a great ensemble including a post ET Dee Wallace and Max Gail who hadn’t been a series regular since Barney Miller, plus a pre Dexter Desmond Harrington, a pre Suburgatory Gillian Vigman and a pre The Middle, Eden Sher.
Sons & Daughters also had the misfortune of airing in an impossible timeslot. It premiered on March 7th 2005 and was scheduled for 5 weeks, double pumping 2 eps a week. ABC had no other family single cams to pair it with. (It aired after According To Jim and Rodney). Most importantly it aired opposite 2 hour American Idol’s some weeks, at its height of mega death star-ness, and then other weeks opposite House which was in its second season and was one of the biggest dramas on TV. Interestingly though, CBS premiered The Unit the same night but that show did fantastic, though it aired following NCIS which even then was a big hit and one of the only shows to not really get hurt by Idol. Opoosite those hits, there was little audience left for people to sample S&D and it was basically a self starter.
In 2005, while the second seasons of ABCs Desperate Housewives, Lost, and especially Grey’s Anatomy were soaring to new mega large heights, the network’s comedy brand was in serious trouble. Their multi cams like According To Jim, My Wife and Kids, George Lopez and even Hope & Faith that kept the network afloat in the early part of the decade were on a serious wane and in a few of the cases about to be cancelled and the newer single cams the network tried like Emily’s Reasons Why Not and Jake In Progress were virtually DOA. So, Sons and Daughters was literally on its own in more ways than one. It was called in to replace Commander In Chief which earlier that season looked like it might join the networks other big dramas in the hit pile, but which collapsed pretty quickly and even with Geena Davis winning a Golden Globe in early Jan, two nights later, American idol virtually decimated what was left of the shows ratings. So ABC likely figured they had little to lose, putting the show on after the other family comedies in a timeslot no other comedies air and hope that the critical acclaim brings it some numbers. They likely were just looking for signs of life and hoping that it would do well enough that they could bring it back for another season with a new single cam family comedy that they had in development.
Well it didn’t premiere well, and as the weeks went by the numbers eroded even more and ABC never even aired the 11th episode they had ordered. There was buzz that they still might pick it up for another season because the network were big fans and they knew what they had, but ultimately they passed.
Fred Goss starred in Carpoolers for the network 2 seasons later in another ensemble single camera comedy that wouldn’t stick out on ABC now, but it also didn’t work since it was pre the networks single cam family comedy renaissance.
Cut to 2013 and a version of Sons and Daughters might be the perfect 9:30 Wednesday show that ABC is looking for. Obviously there are no guarantees. I would have guessed Suburgatory would be holding more of MF than it currently is. Plus other shows were re-developed years later to no avail. CBS tried to redo an early 90s show Grapevine a few of years later and it did nothing. ABC tried Cupid again a few years ago when their drama brand was so well-developed and a romantic show like that should have worked on a network whose dramas attract many female viewers. (Also this version followed DWTS on a Tuesday not aired on a Saturday wasteland). That too was DOA. So again – there are no guarantees, but I would think a show like this is perfect for the ABC comedy Wednesday brand now that it’s worth a shot to at least shoot a pilot.
Whats even more interesting is that this season especially, Fred Goss has been directing ao many current single camera comedies like New Girl, Ben and Kate, Happy Endings, Dont Trust The B and even a couple of Modern Family eps, including one scheduled to air in a few weeks. He’s entrenched in all the big comedies of this genre now and he can possibly bring that refinement and the current rhythms to a show that was a pre cursor to many of them. As I’m writing this, HBO has just greenlit a new Christopher Guest comedy to series called Family Tree and it seems like the perfect time to give Sons and Daughter another shot.
The show seems like it was a labor of love for Fred Goss and the fact that ABC now has a comedy brand and a night where it might fit makes me think they should at least give the redeveloping idea a shot. Because of music rights issues, the show never even landed on DVD. (Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” was used as the its theme and it was perfect). Here’s 8 minutes of the show Fred Goss uploaded to You Tube consisting of his Favorite “Sons & Daughters” Moments
Here’s an early ABC Sons & Daughters Promo