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‘Crowded’ review: Empty nesters’ kids return in familiar comedy

Patrick Warburton and Carrie Preston are empty nesters

Patrick Warburton and Carrie Preston are empty nesters whose kids have returned on "Crowded." Photo Credit: NBC / Vivian Zink

WHEN | WHERE Previews Tuesday night at 10 and 10:30 on NBC/4, then moves into its regular time slot, Sundays at 9:30 p.m., on March 20.

GRADE C+

WHAT IT’S ABOUT Mike (Patrick Warburton, “Seinfeld”) and Martina (Carrie Preston, “True Blood”) become empty nesters when their daughters Shea (Miranda Cosgrove, “iCarly”) and Stella (Mia Serafino, “Shameless”) move out. But then, they move back in, along with Mike’s parents, Alice (Carlease Burke) and Bob (Stacy Keach). The house is suddenly crowded.

MY SAY In an unusual tactic and possibly a strategic one, “Crowded’s” showrunner, Suzanne Martin, addressed TV critics in a letter posted on the series’ website. Both a confessional and plea for understanding, she wrote: “You are about to watch and judge our show, and I’m sure you can understand how terrifying that is. I sincerely hope it makes you laugh, and feels real and truthful.”

Should I tell Ms. Martin — also creator of “Hot in Cleveland” — or do you want to break the news after watching?

Me?

Fine: It didn’t. And doesn’t.

That’s not a knock on Martin or even “Crowded” — a perfectly genial sitcom with some familiar and welcome faces — but probably more on me, a bleary-eyed, now square-eyed, observer of the TV scene who has seen shows like this come and go . . . and come back again. They are the boomerangs of the cultural landscape, on an endless repeat loop. Audiences and networks throw one away — and they come right back again a few years later.

That’s OK — really it is — and it doesn’t even make “Crowded” a particularly bad show, but rather an overly familiar one that’s landed in the wrong ZIP code. If this were on TV Land, it would settle in for a long, happy life, as viewers reconnect with beloved stars from years past, like Warburton, Keach and “Hot in Cleveland’s” Jane Leeves and Betty White, who have cameos in a later episode.

Instead, it’s in the turbulent, unkind waters of NBC’s prime time where viewers are restlessly looking for something, but — sorry, Ms. Martin — probably not this.

BOTTOM LINE A genial, old-fashioned — nay, prehistoric — family sitcom on the wrong network.

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