Picture this set: A semi-shabby, fairly messy living room, couch in the center, door to the outside on the left, stairway in back, door to kitchen, the show's only other locale, on right.
If that doesn't ring a bell, put a fairly rotund mother in there as the central character who plays against the media stereotype by still being passionately in love with her husband despite the lack of a model's stick figure. Now surround her with some sassy kids who give as good as they get.
Sound familiar? Well, it's basically a description of "Roseanne." It's also a description of the new CBS show "You Take the Kids" that premieres this weekend. It will be on Washington's Channel 9 (WUSA) at its normal time of 8 o'clock Saturday, but Channel 11 (WBAL) is pre-empting it for a local documentary and will run the premiere Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock.
What's different about "You Take the Kids" is that it's trying to be a black "Roseanne." You can tell that not only by the color of the cast, but also by the way the script, whenever it's in desperate need of a joke, has the characters say something semi-funny about "white folks" which gets the same sorts of howls of laughter from the studio audience that having aged black characters say "suckah" used to elicit a few seasons back.
Once Roseanne Barr proved that rotundity was no obstacle to either romantic relationships or high ratings, the copies were inevitable. See "Babes." Nell Carter shoulders the burden in this one. She and hubbie, played by Roger E. Mosley, do have four kids, not three, so there is great originality at work here.
The tone is set in the opening scene as the central couple is trying to get romantic in their bed, but are constantly being interrupted by the kids. "They're doing it!" screams one of them, again to howls from the laugh track. Kind of makes you want to sit down and watch as a family, doesn't it?
Eventually, Mosley has to get up and dance for his wife before we can get on with the various story lines. The main one has to do with their daughter's breast size and the effect that a pair of strategically placed socks has on the boys at school. Aren't you glad CBS is running this at 8 o'clock?
Others include the grown-ups' futile attempts to get away alone for the weekend, and one son constantly calling another an idiot. The requisite social message is taken care of by having Carter run off a local thief who's trying to recruit her 10-year-old as a runner.
At its best, "Roseanne" delivers the message that attributes like love, wit, insight, intelligence and passion can come in packages not usually seen in prime time, ones that have blue collars and protruding bellies. Adding black skin and bad writing cannot hide the copycat aspects of "You Take the Kids." A "Roseanne" by any other name . . .
"You Take the Kids" * A working class black family with four kids tries to keep body and soul together on Dad's bus driver paycheck.
CAST: Nell Carter, Roger E. Mosley
TIME: Sunday at 3 p.m., then Saturdays at 8 o'clock
CHANNEL: CBS Channel 11 (WBAL)