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Frothy ‘Grounded’ Runs Out of Gas

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“Grounded for Life’s” season premiere tonight on Fox will give you flashbacks, for better and for worse. Although the show is lighthearted and likable, as if Paul Harvey were intoning, “And now you know the rest of the story” at its end, it recalls countless sitcoms about marriage ... with children.

Tonight’s episode begins as parents Sean and Claudia Finnerty (Donal Logue and Megyn Price) deal with the theft of their beat-up family car. Shock turns to glee over the prospect of buying sportier wheels. Uncle Eddie (Kevin Fitzgerald Corrigan) eggs them on to inflate the insurance claim by stating that the car radio was a Blaupunkt, among other stretches of the truth.

Although Sean has some qualms, he is easily swayed. Why? Because the Finnertys are parental Peter Pans, byproducts of their having had a love child (Lynsey Bartilson) at 18. At 32, they don’t want to grow up, as they raise the aforementioned Lily and her brothers (Griffin Frazen and Jake Burbage). Meanwhile, Sean’s judgmental father (Richard Riehle) offers words of dubious wisdom (and, in this episode, wears clothes of dubious taste).

After the couple visit an auto dealer (where everything is “pre-owned,” not “used”), the best-laid plans of vice and men go awry, as does the show. It becomes a series of zany “he said, she said” stories that aren’t quite zany enough. And the series’ major storytelling device, the flashback, is more vividly employed in Fox’s “Titus.”

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In contrast to previous episodes, the Finnertys lay down some parental law this time. Could they be losing their coolness or, in the case of Logue, who starred in the film “The Tao of Steve,” his essential Steve-ness? As with most of the show, it’s better not to think this into the ground.

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“Grounded for Life” premieres at 8:30 tonight on Fox. The network has rated it TV-PG (may be unsuitable for young children).


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