THE SERIES “Splitting Up Together”
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. on ABC/7
WHAT IT’S ABOUT Can two divorced people live together without driving each other crazy? That declared theme powered TV’s classic original run of “The Odd Couple” and three recent semi-viewed seasons of CBS’ Matthew Perry revival.
Of course, Oscar and Felix weren’t actually married to each other. Which makes ABC’s new “Splitting Up Together” a whole ’nother situation for a comedy (also grounded in serious elements, adapted from a Danish show). Its single-camera lens is trained on 15-years-and-divorcing parents played by familiar TV faces — Jenna Fischer (“The Office”) as a control-freak mom of three, and Oliver Hudson (“Rules of Engagement”) as a narcissist who wouldn’t even learn to dance for his wedding reception.
That info nugget plays a crucial role in early episodes spanning the couple’s initial attempts to sort-of share their house to split time with their two teens and “the little guy.” First comes Mom Week, when oldest son brings up dicey puberty issues, then Dad Week, when the guys don pink “pussy” hats to impress dour feminist middle girl. Each parent also gets that alternate “off-duty” week, living solo in their swanked-up garage, engaging in dates and discussions with friends/relatives. This can lead to silliness with squirrels and/or stickily sentimental guitar riffs.
MY SAY Oh, the romantic comedy series. Such a vexing format. When did this work? Does it ever? Will they, won’t they? Should they, even? Network TV often tries to fold the concept inside a show that’s really about something else — “The Big Bang Theory,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Gilmore Girls.” Staking the whole bet on romantic adventures rarely succeeds, even with stars like Alicia Silverstone (“Miss Match”) and Heather Graham (“Emily’s Reasons Why Not”).
Maybe that’s because network series surfers aren’t after the kind of uncertainty that lurks right in the title of “Splitting Up Together.” (Clever phrase? Perhaps. Enticing concept? Perhaps not.) A sitcom like “Mike & Molly” can capture fans because it’s clear from the start that this couple is together-for-good whatever the obstacles.
Also, of course, there’s a thing called chemistry, which is little evident in the first few episodes here. Fischer and Hudson seem fine sparring, but not all that connected. Even reliable supporting players Diane Farr, Lindsay Price and Bobby Lee feel grafted on to the show’s family core, mere handy vectors for the leads’ quandaries or confessions.
BOTTOM LINE Maybe there’s a reason rom-coms are a movie thing. Set it up, play it out, bring it to a head, game over. Weekly visits? Those are for your shrink.