This is actually a very charming situation comedy that harkens back to the days of The Cosby Show, but is actually far more honest and less about one liners. While everybody loves the Cos, the show got cluttered and rarely dealt with real life issues in any serious way. In My Wife And Kids, I get the sense of a real family here. The cast makes it work, but credit the writers for coming up with a comedy that did not rely on one liners. Don’t get me wrong, the jokes are there, and they sometimes fly fast and furious, but one always feels there’s more to any given scene or situation. The show is completely family friendly. I’m a little sorry that I stumbled on it after it was already gone.
Michael Kyle (Wayans) lives a comfortable life. He’s quite content. He makes good money, so they live in comfortable style. His wife, Jay (Campbell) is pretty much a stay at home mom and day trader. They have three children: Kady (Posey), Junior (Gore II), and Claire (Raycole). The younger child has a Hispanic nanny, Rosa (Forte), who doesn’t like Michael at all. But life is about to change in the Kyle household. Jay’s trading skills have gotten so good that she’s offered a job as a full time broker. Michael wants to be supportive, but he’s gotten used to having a housewife around. Now Michael will have to adapt and share some of the parenting. His own brand of common sense and efforts to advise the children tend to be where much of the show’s comedy is mined.
In the first season we didn’t get a long run of episodes. The series didn’t begin until March. While the ratings never really soared, the show held its own enough to return for its first full season the next year. In the first 11 episodes we meet the characters and the situation of Jay’s going to work in the pilot episode. Some serious issues are also explored. Junior is learning to play guitar, falling in with a group of pot smokers. He decides to try it out in the episode, Grassy Knoll. Claire blackmails Junior when she discovers he changed his algebra grade from an F to an A in Making The Grade. Of course, mom and dad knew it all along and decide it’s time to teach him a lesson. Damon Wayan’s real life brother and often working partner Keenan guests as Michael’s brother in A Little Romance. It’s one of those reunions you just knew was bound to happen. The season ends with the episode, Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow. Michael’s accountant dies, so now he decides to take life by the horns by getting a hair piece and a motorcycle.
My Wife And Kids is presented in an amazing 1.78:1 widescreen format. This looks great. Colors are dynamic and black levels are rock solid. I have never encountered a sit-com with this kind of image quality. Sadly, I never watched the show when it aired, so I’m not sure if it was broadcast in this form, but either way this is, I hope, a precedent-setting video presentation.
Even though the Dolby Digital 5.1 track is not ambitious or aggressive at all, it is again laudable that a sit-com be given such serious treatment. Dialog pretty much dominates this mix, meaning it all lives in the center speaker with the rest in your front mains. Again, this is trend setting stuff that I hope is carried forward from here.
One of the advantages of this job is that I get a second look at shows I either missed entirely or only caught for a fleeting glimpse. Sometimes it merely reinforces my decision to stay away. Other times, like with My Wife And Kids, it makes me wish I’d taken the time to check it out. At least I finally get to see shows like this in a more comfortable condition than they likely appeared in broadcast television anyway. If you, like me, just passed this one by as another trendy looking sit-com that likely isn’t very funny, now’s your chance to go back and correct the mistake. I won’t say it’s fall out of your seat funny, but it is funny, entertaining, and doesn’t need to scream, curse, or fall into innuendo at every turn. It’s cleverly written, and you can enjoy it safely with the entire family. It’s been accused of being bland and too cookie cutter. It is neither of those things. You don’t have to shout to be heard. This one’s a winner. “You want to appeal my decision?”