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'Indebted' review: Fran Drescher returns in old-fashioned sitcom

(l-r) Abby Elliott as Rebecca, Steven Weber

 (l-r) Abby Elliott as Rebecca, Steven Weber as Stew, Fran Drescher as Debbie, Adam Pally as Dave in NBC's "Indebted." Credit: NBC/Trae Patton

SITCOM "Indebted"

WHERE|WHEN Premieres Thursday at 9:30 p.m. on NBC/4.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Aging boomers Debbie (Fran Drescher, "The Nanny") and Stew (Steven Weber, "Wings") are broke, so their next move is a boomerang one — they have to move in with their adult son's family. Problem is, Dave (Adam Pally, "The Mindy Project") and wife Rebecca (Abby Elliott, "Saturday Night Live") finally have a little free time now that their kids are in grade school. Maybe Debbie and Stew can help with the baby-sitting? Maybe not so much. 

MY SAY Since Drescher was last in a hit network sitcom ("The Nanny," 1993-99), the world has grown a degree or two warmer, there have been a couple of impeachments, same number of wars, and the Mets — yes, the Mets — have yet to win another World Series. Not to be a Debbie downer here, but it is actually nice to see that some things (other than the Mets) haven't changed all that much.

Drescher's voice retains that quality that turns heads, induces wonder, inspires amusement. Weber remains one of TV's premiere utility players — put him anywhere, on anything, and he makes it better, or at minimum, bearable. This show's producer, Dan Levy, is a callow youth (38) by comparison but has been around long enough to know how to put the "sit" in sitcom: Parents are broke, must move in with the kids. (He was formerly a producer with "The Goldbergs.") 

What these pros can't get past is the show itself. "Indebted" is the network equivalent of Al Pacinos's "just when I thought I was out (they pull me back in.)." Bound to the past, it can't logically enough escape that past. The lines, setups and delivery almost seem to fly out of the last century — light from a distant galaxy, arriving just now. 

None of this makes "Indebted" bad so much as obvious. In the pilot, Debbie and Stew try to crowdfund their debt, but Rebecca accidentally wanders by the camera unclothed (which helps with the fundraising). In the second episode, Rebecca and Dave's six-year-old son may be "gifted" (but probably isn't). In the third, the family trades "hot gos" (gossip.) They're all single jokes serviced by some energetic performances — Pally's, in particular — and a nostalgic thrum. You've been this way before, too many times to count. 

Drescher, meanwhile, is exactly as remembered, if the memory can't quite summon forgettable post-"Nanny" sitcoms like "Living with Fran" (2005-07) or "Happily Divorced" (2011-13). She's a TV performer with essentially one move, or rather one singular voice that turns "r's" into long "ahhs," and which has otherwise convinced most viewers who don't know better that this must be how Jewish people from New Yawk tawk. The laughs it gets aren't earned as much as expected.    

 So if you miss that Voice, want to be reminded of bygone days, and like your sitcoms served once over easy, then "Indebted" is for you. And if you overlook the show, don't worry. Another one exactly like it will be along shortly.

BOTTOM LINE Drescher is back in a bantamweight sitcom from ancient times — the 1990s. 

 

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