remember that Friends episode where Chandler, Monica and Ross want to go see Hootie and the Blowfish, but Rachel, Phoebe and Joey can’t afford it? It’s remarkable, not just because Monica ends up making out with a Blowfish, but because it directly addresses a taboo subject on TV: money.
Most sitcoms act as if struggling young artists can afford giant apartments in Manhattan and don’t bother to explain how; with a few exceptions like Roseane, financial troubles are the unbroken third rail of TV comedy. ABC Domestical economy, though – debuting this Wednesday at 8:30/7:30c; I’ve seen the first three – grab that third rail with both hands, tackle money matters head-on, and that refreshing honesty, along with a very solid all-star trio, make him a very promising newcomer .
The story centers on three adult siblings who span the spectrum of financial security. At the bottom of the ladder, Sarah (Caitlin McGee) is a therapist for at-risk children struggling to make ends meet in a small, cramped apartment with his wife and two children. (His car still has manual roll-up windows!) Tom (Topher Grace) is an average novelist looking for his next book idea, so he’s somewhere in the middle, financially speaking. And Connor (Jimmy Tatro) is an obnoxiously wealthy investor who lives in Matt Damon’s former home…a fact he proudly announces to anyone within earshot. This gaping economic disparity between them, which normally wouldn’t be mentioned, is the focus here: in the pilot, Tom has to ask his baby brother Connor for a loan, resulting in the kind of uncomfortable conversations we don’t have. often. hear on TV.
Plus, it helps that the three stars immediately lock in a natural sibling chemistry. Topher Grace hasn’t had a sitcom regular since. That 70s show, and as Tom he can show off that flawless deadpan delivery we’ve been missing since then. McGee showed real potential on you are the worst, and she lends Sarah a courageous righteousness. The real highlight, however, is Tatro. So good as a dopey teen on american vandal, he’s hilarious here as Connor, who flaunts his wealth like a frat boy who won the lottery. Karla Souza (How to escape murder) and Sasheer Zamata (SNL) also come out some good zingers, like Tom Marina’s wife and Sarah Denise’s wife, respectively. (Across three episodes, kids play a surprisingly small role for an ABC sitcom…but I personally consider that a plus.)
I must note that Domestical economy‘ the financial perspective is not entirely realistic. After all, they all live in the very expensive Bay Area, and Tom and Marina still manage to live in one of those nice suburban TV houses, despite their money troubles. (She at one point offers to “go back to work at the company”…which, yeah, will do that! You’re broke!), and yes, Tom decides to make his next book the story of him and his siblings — but at least it creates future complications when his family discovers they’re being used for literary fodder.
Overall, though, it’s an airy watch with a laid-back, goofy energy, and it touches on some tricky subjects without getting too deep with them. (It’s a comedy, after all.) Sometimes it’s hard to talk about money, but the Domestical economy the crew finds a way to make it almost fun.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: ABC’s promising sitcom Domestical economy tackles financial issues with refreshing honesty and boasts a strong trio of TV siblings.