"Lost at Home" isn't "Leave It to Beaver," but compared with most TV shows it probably does qualify as old-fashioned.
The new ABC sitcom, which premieres Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on Ch. 4, is about a family. A traditional, father-mother-and-the-kids family. Albeit it one at a crisis point of sorts.
As the series opens, Michael (Mitch Rouse) — a workaholic with a high-pressure job at an ad agency — arrives home to the news that his wife, Rachel (Connie Britton), is contemplating divorce. It's not that she doesn't love him, it's just that she and their three children never see him.
Michael is given a choice. He can either reconnect with Rachel and their three kids — teenagers Will (Stark Sands) and Sara (Leah Pipes) and 7-year-old Joshua (Gavin Fink)— or he can find a lawyer to represent him in the divorce.
"It is not going to be an old-fashioned show, but it is going to promote one old-fashioned value, which is that you have two people that genuinely love each other," said creator executive producer Michael Jacobs ("Boy Meets World"). "Lost at Home" isn't about the end of a family, it's about a new beginning as Michael tries to reconnect with people he knows far too little about.
"At its core it's about trying to keep the family together," Jacobs said.
"I think it has a lot to do with what happens when a man sees that he may have made a mistake and wants to try to make it better," said executive producer Tony Jonas. "So redemption, I think, is as strong a theme in this as anything else."
"I think it's going to be funny, too," Rouse interjected. "It seems like we're talking about a drama here."
Which "Lost at Home" is not. There are some genuinely amusing moments in the first couple of episodes, and the cast is extremely likable. Rouse and Britton are particularly winning.
There is conflict between parents and children, but the parents are in control. Well, Rachel more than Michael, but they are in control. And there are not bad guys here. The closest "Lost at Home" comes to that is Michael's driven, much-divorced boss (Gregory Hines), with whom he has to negotiate his new priorities.
This being 2003, it's not a surprise that the plot of Tuesday's premiere has something to do with sex. In this case, teenage Will is hot for a date with a girl who seems certain to change his status as a virgin — a topic that parents may want younger children to avoid.
However, Will's parents let him know quite clearly what they think of his plans — and they're decidedly against them.
Like "Boy Meets World," this new show has more than its share of "awwww" moments when characters are learning life lessons or doing something cute, but there ought to be a place for shows like this on network TV.
"I'm having a very tough time understanding why the genre . . . left the air," Jacobs said. "There has to be a window of opportunity for all of the audience to have an experience in watching television that they can relate to. I'm not sure that children and young family members can relate to these six people on 'Friends.' "
(Not that he's knocking "Friends," a show that he called, "if not my favorite show on television, certainly one of them because I think it's brilliantly done.")
And if "Life at Home" gets a bit preachy at times, well, Jacobs isn't apologizing for that.
"It is time to preach that the absence of the nuclear family is something that needs to be written about and addressed," he said. "I grew up in a nuclear family, and I am very confident that it is an interesting thing to hold on to."