Gone Too Soon: Sons & Daughters
by Jason Hughes, posted Oct 12th 2009 5:03PM
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.
The 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.
Why 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.
Where 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.
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!]