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October 9, 2015

Gone Too Soon: Sons & Daughters

by Jason Hughes, posted Oct 12th 2009 5:03PM
Sons & Daughters
ABC has a certified hit with their big sprawling look at an American Modern Family. But this isn't their first foray into a big family sitcom. In 2006, they aired a partially improvised comedy about a big, sprawling American family.

Sons & Daughters was barely on a month, but it sunk its talons into me and still hasn't let go. With mostly improvised dialogue, there was something very honest about the language they spoke, complete with the stammers and stutters that make up real conversation. The show was honest, heartfelt and funny. And with a massive cast, it felt like we were constantly on the verge of total chaos somewhere.

It looks like Sons & Daughters was ahead of its time, hitting the air when Americans were touting the sitcom as a dying format. Goss needed to hold out until this season, somehow. Now we're taking a hard look at the sitcom again, and finding that we do like it. It just has to be good. Sons & Daughters was good.

What was it?

[Spoilers Ahead!] Following the Curb Your Enthusiasm format, Sons & Daughters was a hybrid scripted/improvisational comedy. The actors were given a script that essentially amounted to a short story hitting the plot points, along with a few lines of dialogue the creators needed to be in there. The rest of it was off the cuff conversations. It takes a talented cast to pull that off, but this large group handled it masterfully.

Sons & DaughtersThe series centered around Cameron (Fred Goss). He was on his second marriage to a much younger woman (complete with toddler), and was dealing with his teenaged son from his first marriage moving in with them. His parents discovered they wanted a divorce, his sister and her husband had a sex-less marriage, and their little half-sister was a single mother. Throw in a crazy aunt and you get one great big, multi-generational family mess.

And this bunch made the same kind of horrible life decisions and mistakes that permeate all of our real families. Creator Fred Goss framed a lot of it around his extended family, complete with teen pregnancies, divorce and general bad behavior. I could certainly relate to all of that from my own family, so it rang truer than most sitcoms on the air.

Sons & DaughtersWhy did it have to go?
I'm really not sure what ABC's thoughts were about the show to begin with. They aired the ten episodes that did make it to US screens in a five-week span on Tuesday nights, opposite House and American Idol. Within a month of the final episode airing, ABC announced that the series had been canceled. That means from premiere to cancellation, the series lasted less than three months (which is still better than The Beautiful Life).

With very little promotion, a short run in a terrible time-slot on a network that wasn't known for good comedies at the time, it's almost a wonder the show lasted five weeks. It's especially disheartening, because three-and-a-half years later, ABC's Wednesday night comedy block is doing well, and Sons & Daughters would be a great fit in that lineup. It would certainly be a better lead-in than Hank. Perhaps, it was ahead of its time.

How do I find out what happens next?
You don't. Fred Goss and the writing staff hadn't plotted out things much beyond the first eleven episodes, waiting to see how the audience responded to those and then how ABC responded to that. When it didn't look good, they had to move on.

Sons & DaughtersWhere did the cast wind up?
  • Fred Goss (Cameron Walker) was next seen in the equally short-lived Carpoolers and an episode of Kath & Kim.
  • Gillian Vigman (Liz Walker) transitioned mostly to film work, appearing recently in Step Brothers and The Hangover.
  • Jerry Lambert (Don Fenton) has been guest work and commercials lately, appearing in spots for Holiday Inn and PlayStation's MLB 09: The Show
  • Dee Wallace (Colleen Halbert) had a notable guest stint on My Name Is Earl, but has mostly returned to various roles in tons of films.
  • Eden Sher (Carrie Fenton) had a few guest spots here and there before landing the role of cluelessly untalented daughter Sue on ABC's The Middle.
  • Randy Wayne (Jeff Fenton) shifted to a Crackle original web series Hot Hot Los Angeles for its short run, but has since been doing mostly filmwork.
  • Max Gail (Wendal Halbert) has been on the guest circuit, most recently with an extended role on CBS's Gary Unmarried as Jack.
  • Greg Pitts (Tommy "Whitey" White) continues to get plenty of guest roles, and can be seen pitching Allstate Insurance.
  • Desmond Harrington (Wylie Blake) was Troy on Rescue Me for a bit and Jack Bass on Gossip Girl before landing the role of Joey Quinn on Dexter.
  • And everyone else I didn't mention could be seen in various guest spots on television, theater and whatever part time job they could manage to find. Maybe Wal-Mart door greeters.

Sons & DaughtersWho Cares?
An internet petition was started to save the show, but it barely had time for pe.ople to discover it before ABC finalized their decision. From what I can gather there is a very small but loyal fan base. Most people never even found the show, and thus will probably have no idea it was ever even on the air. But those of us who did discover this hidden little, quickly abandoned gem won't soon forget it.

Of course, TV Squad's Joel Keller knew right away what a gem this was. You can check out our coverage of the show from when it was still a part of the TV landscape here.

When can I see it?
Wow, this is a tough one and I feel kind of bad. Due to music rights concerns (there was a limited usage contract for the popular music used in the series), the series is still not on DVD, despite Goss' willingness to remaster the episodes with original music. I don't even have any streaming sites I can direct you to, though ABC should really make it available somewhere.

[via AOL, Wikipedia, IMDb, ThingaMaBaby, BlogCritics.org and more!]

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A different Brett

ABC promoted this show RELENTLESSLY before it aired with commercials that horribly misrepresented its tone and content. I have to assume that the people who were interested in the show as it was advertised lost interest in the actual show within the first 2 minutes, and many people who would have loved it were so turned off by the ads that they never gave it a chance. I know that I almost didn't.

November 11 2009 at 4:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John Black

This show is one of the best comedies I have ever seen. After watching the first episode i thought ABC had a gold mine. Then ic ehcnked the ratings and saw that it bombed. I was truly disappointed when I found out it had been cancelled. But I was more disappointed in people for not watching this show.

October 14 2009 at 7:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was busy trying to save Arrested Development, too busy to save this show.
On a related note, the AD cast made a joke about this show, saying that all the discarded parts of their show were put together to make this show. I don't know why I wanted to say that here, I guess I just wanted to start a fight.

October 13 2009 at 6:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Great, great show. Modern Family, which I also love, has its origins in Sons and Daughters.

October 13 2009 at 1:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jonathan C

yes it was amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

i remember reading goss' rant after it got canceled. he said stuff like we got canceled and surprise surprise according to jim gets picked up again.

this is a more censored verison also.

October 12 2009 at 10:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought this show was a comedy gold mine. So many laugh out loud moments every week. I loved it and then it disappeared. Such a shame ABC or anybody else didn't know a good thing when they had it!

October 12 2009 at 8:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This so was AMAZING! I loved it, and I was sad it was gone. It was before quirky non-laugh-track comedies began to catch on, and it got swept under the rug as a fill-in show. The cast was brilliant, and nearly every scene was outrageously hilarious. It was nice to see a fresh comedy in mid-Ohio and actually filmed in Ohio. I wish it would at least be released on DVD.

October 12 2009 at 7:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really, really liked this show, and looked forward to it every week. I was so sorry to see it go after such a short run. I remember I liked the actress who played Fred Goss's sister a lot; she was so funny.
If I remember correctly, this was also part of a wave of improvised sitcoms that hit the airwaves at that same time; the equally short-lived "Free Ride" on Fox is another that I remember. I liked that too; but it seems the public just wasn't keen on unscripted shows, unless they were in the reality format.

October 12 2009 at 7:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tv junkie

omg, loved the show, thought i was the only one who remembered. it would have fit perfectly in ABC's current wednesday comedy lineup.

October 12 2009 at 6:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tv junkie's comment

My sentiments exactly, but the show seriously lacked any singing, or dancing (tongue firmly planted in cheek.)

October 13 2009 at 3:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TV in a Flash

Love this show. You can find the director's clip reel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/fredgoss#p/a/u/1/8EAjx-I0n10

October 12 2009 at 6:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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