In the new UPN sitcom "Family Rules," Greg Evigan plays Nate, the single father of four daughters. And, in the time-honored tradition of TV, none of the actresses playing those daughters looks anything like Evigan or like each other.
It's not that Maggie Lawson, Shawna Waldron, Andi Eystad and Brooke Garrett aren't perfectly good-looking. They just have about as much in common as any four people you might pick randomly off the street.You'd think they were all adopted or at least had different mothers. But it's just one of those Hollywood things viewers have come to accept.
But it might have been different, at least for one of the characters. Evigan's daughter, Vanessa, actually could have ended up playing his TV daughter.
"She could have been. But she's not," he said. "She did come in (to audition). But she just apparently wasn't as good as my TV daughters."
Which left the show's executive producer, Russell Marcus, sputtering somewhat.
"That's not true! That's not true!" he insisted, despite the fact that he passed over Vanessa Evigan in favor of Maggie Lawson, who plays oldest daughter Hope. "She's very good and she's a great actress and a great person, we just . . . ," he added, sort of sputtering out.
The elder Evigan couldn't speak to how Vanessa's audition went.
"I wasn't in the room," he said. "I probably would have stood up (to) try to give a little direction. I would have embarrassed her, basically."
And Evigan certainly didn't seem upset at the turn of events.
"I don't know how good we'd be working together, anyway, when it came to being on the set," he said.
"That's a very scary proposition," Marcus hurriedly agreed.
NOT SO GREAT: Actually, perhaps Vanessa Evigan (who co-starred in the short-lived UPN sitcom "Social Studies" a couple of years ago) shouldn't feel so bad about missing out on "Family Rules." About the nicest thing you could say about the show is that it's relatively inoffensive.
(Although in tonight's pilot episode -- at 10:30 p.m. on Ch. 14 -- the oldest daughter thinks about going to bed with her boyfriend.)
It's also remarkably lame, overly derivative of uncounted sitcoms that have gone before and just plain unfunny.
The premise has a widowed college basketball coach (Evigan) trying to raise four daughters who vary in age, outlook and interests. And there's the requisite quick-witted sidekick, played by Markus Redmond.
The level of humor is, well, extremely high on the lame-o-meter. Like this exchange from an upcoming episode, when Nate is taking his youngest child on a camp-out in the back yard.
"It's just a little adventure," Nate says.
"That's what the Donner Party said," replies Lucy (Garrett) who's far too smart for her years.
"The Donners are having a party! Dope!" interjects C.J., (Eystad) who's far too dumb for her years.
It's not the worst thing on television, but it's hardly worth a half-hour of your life.
SINGLE DAD: Wags are already calling this one "My One Dad," a play on one of Evigan's other TV ventures, "My Two Dads" -- the 1987-90 show in which he co-starred with Paul Reiser.
And, like that show, "Family Rules" casts him as a single father -- one of umpteen such shows that have populated network television over the years. Which begs the question -- aren't families with mothers funny?
"The main dynamic that we wanted to explore . . . was the father/teenage daughter dynamic, which I think is just filled with all types of baggage but great stuff, too," said Marcus, who is the father of a 14-year-old daughter.
"And, at least at our house, my wife is sort of the facilitator and communicator between dad and daughter in that dynamic. I'm so glad she's there to do this, but her being there sort of diffuses the dynamic a little bit.
"And I guess we felt that to show clearly on TV what this interesting and hopefully funny dynamic is" the mother had to be dead.
So . . . families with mothers aren't funny, apparently.
DEAD OR NOT: For a while there, you had to wonder whether Evigan and Marcus have actually talked much about the show they're working on together.
"She may not be dead," Evigan said of his missing TV wife. "We just don't want to bring her back and have her be some bitter woman coming back every week."
So . . . there's a possibility the missing wife could show up at some point?
"If there's a good story," Evigan said before turning to Marcus and asking, "Russell, would I be wrong about this?"
"Oh, I think we'd laid it in pretty well that she's dead," Marcus said. "Unless we're doing the Walt Disney thing where we unfreeze her."
MUPPET COUSIN: There is one thing that makes "Family Rules" decidedly different from other sitcoms. It comes to us from Jim Henson Television, which is far more familiar for its work that involves Muppets.
" 'Family Rules' is a real departure for the company," said Marcy Ross, the senior vice president of creative affairs at Henson and a co-producer on the series. "It was a very conscious decision we made that as we branched out into prime time and programmed more for prime time, we would expand the vision of what a Henson show could be."
She said that no matter what genre a show fits into, "We're always going to stay true to the core Henson values. Which mean, basically, to do shows that are really good fun, good in spirit (and) something the whole family is going to enjoy watching together and can learn something from."
All of which sounds great. Too bad "Family Rules" isn't a better show.