WHEN "SONS and Daughters," the new CBS series that premieres tonight, was yanked from the fall schedule, it seemed to have been put on a shelf way back in the network's closet.
Indeed, many thought that it would never find its way to prime time other than perhaps as a midsummer throwaway.
If you see this first hour or, even worse, happen to catch next week's second episode on Channel 11 (WBAL) at 10 o'clock, you'll understand why.
The idea behind "Sons and Daughters" seems to have been to have taken the appeal of "thirtysomething" and broadened it for a wider audience. In other words, take the sort of quiet, intimate look at baby boomers and belt it out as a soap operatic aria.
The result is "thirtysomething from hell." Trying to pound the sleek "thirtysomething" sports car into an economy sedan destroys everything that is excellent about that show.
Where "thirtysomething" is intimate and quiet, "Sons and Daughters" is loud and braying. The matter-of-fact frankness on such things as sex in "thirtysomething" is replaced by a look-at-how-dirty-we-can-talk smugness in "Sons and Daughters."
Most importantly, "thirtysomething" has a natural, realistic feel, giving the viewer a fly-on-the-wall experience of viewing what seems like real people facing up to actual situations, while "Sons and Daughters" is theatrical and contrived, a Hollywood screenwriter's vision of what a bunch of baby boomers ought to act like if they want to get on a series.
"Sons and Daughters" gets off to a rocky enough start tonight as you try to sort out this large, extended Portland, Ore., family, the Hammersmiths, gathering for some sort of reunion. At the center is temperamental, artistic Tess, played by Lucie Arnaz, a single parent of an adopted Korean daughter named Astrid, just to cover a few political and social bases.
She's got an '80s-style, looking-out-for-number-one yuppie brother Gary, who's got a new baby, and a salt-of-the-earth sister Patty, happily married to the former town jock, a character actually named Spud. The cast includes Rick Rossovich, Scott Plank and Peggy Smithart.
The final ingredient in this heady brew is the long-lost father (Don Murray), who arrives with his young-enough-to-be-his-daughter bride and new baby. Phew!
The developments seem melodramatic and the reactions tthem are over-the-top, bordering on the histrionic. Next week, when the sister's teen-age boy goes out on the town, he gets arrested for accidentally propositioning a prostitute. Of course. Happens all the time.
The comedy is clumsy, the characters are caricatures and the situations are silly. "Sons and Daughters" should have stayed in the closet.
"Sons and Daughters" * New series follows the trials and tribulations of the Hammersmiths, an extended family in Portland, Ore.
CAST: Lucie Arnaz, Rich Rossovich
TIME: Fridays at 10 p.m.
.` CHANNEL: CBS Channel 11 (WBAL)