When CBS approached Marta Kauffman and David Crane, the writing-producing team behind HBO’s bawdy sexcom Dream On, about doing a ”family comedy,” the two (who often finish each other’s sentences) were a bit skeptical.
Crane: The only way we wanted to do a family-in-a-living-room kind of thing was if we could do a real family.
Kauffman: With all that goes with it…
Crane: All the dysfunction…
Kauffman: How they’re the people who, much as you love them, nobody can make you crazier.
Family Album (premiering Sept. 24) may be more than CBS bargained for. Newhart‘s Peter Scolari and Grand‘s Pamela Reed play a couple from Pasadena who move their family back home to Philadelphia only to be driven bonkers by squabbling relatives. Already some critics are harping about the show’s high-decibel arguments. (Have these people seen All in the Family lately?)
Kauffman: We don’t find it shrill. We find it to be filled with conflict. And passion. And people saying what they mean.
Crane: It has to do with your family. If you grew up in a quiet, repressed, no-one-talks-about-their-feelings —
Kauffman: Or no-one-yells —
Crane: Or nobody-yells kind of family, I’m sure this would seem shrill.
Scolari doesn’t come from a nobody-yells household. ”If my Italian family were to see this show,” he says, ”they would say, ‘So, where’s the yelling?”’
Still, according to Reed, the show has been toned down. ”Everybody knew the pilot was a little loud,” she admits. ”The shows we’re doing now are definitely different.” For one thing, the writers won’t cram all 10 regulars into every episode. ”Ten characters in 22 minutes is really a lot,” Reed concedes. ”You have to make these great big brushstrokes in primary colors.”
Kauffman: We explore smaller relationships episode by episode.
Crane: And we’re not forced into that sitcom convention of…
Kauffman: ”Hi, I’m just going to stop by, get some sugar, and leave a joke.”
This much is clear: Family Album is no Full House. ”With all due respect,” Scolari says. ”I watch that show and I want to hurt all those people after 10 minutes.”