SONS AND DAUGHTERS ABC, TUESDAYS, 9 P.M. E.T.
The title is an understatement. This partly improvised sitcom focuses on 16 members of an extended Cincinnati, Ohio, clan: siblings, stepsiblings, grandparents, married parents and single parents. The family is set abuzz in the pilot when Stepgrandpa Wendal (Max Gail) announces that he's leaving Grandma Colleen (Dee Wallace)--and then doesn't. The material is typical family-comedy stuff--money fights, bedroom troubles, sibling rivalries--but the show's conversational improv rhythms and realistic, documentary style make Sons and Daughters worth adopting.
THE LOOP FOX, THURSDAYS, 8:30 P.M. E.T.; PREVIEWS 9:30 P.M., MARCH 15
There are plenty of comedies about failure (see Free Ride, below). The Loop is about the problems of success: Sam (Bret Harrison, near right) is an airline exec in his 20s whose roommates' idea of a big deadline is still last call at the bar. The jokes can be broad (e.g., the airline starts an offshoot called Jack; if you can't guess where the dirty puns go from there, you don't watch much Fox). But Harrison shows Topher Gracean charm as a guy stuck between adolescence and adulthood, and Philip Baker Hall (Magnolia) steals every scene as his gruff, insensitive boss. If the writing can rise to their performances, The Loop could take flight.
FREE RIDE FOX, SUNDAYS, 9:30 P.M. E.T.
Nate Stahlings (Josh Dean), new college grad, is starting adult life on the slow track--specifically, the move-back-to-your-folks'-house-in-Missouri track. Ride is, like Sons and Daughters, partly improvised (creator Rob Roy Thomas brought us Bravo's improv-com Significant Others), and that gives the slacker comedy an appealing, meandering feel. Good-hearted, eccentric and wry, Ride goes nowhere fast, but it has a fine time getting there.
WONDER SHOWZEN MTV2, FRIDAYS, 9:30 P.M. E.T.; RETURNS MARCH 31
Subversive is an overused word in reviews. But when you send out a kid reporter and have her tell a petting-zoo manager, "These animals have it better than most people in the Third World," you've probably earned it. This brilliant kids'-show spoof--which uses puppets, cartoons and live children for absurdist humor and scathing social commentary--may be the most disturbing thing involving kids since, well, many of our actual childhoods.
NIGHTY NIGHT OXYGEN, WEDNESDAYS, 10 P.M. E.T.; RETURNS MARCH 22
In Season 1 (out on DVD), hairdresser Jill Tyrrell (Julia Davis) pursued the husband of her wheelchair-bound neighbor, murdered her own hubby and framed a man for his death. Other than that, she's a delight to be around. In Season 2 of this BBC sitcom, writer-actress Davis brings her antiheroine back to feral, scheming life. She's greedy, cunning and sociopathic, but for fans of dark comedy, Jill will kill.
SLINGS AND ARROWS SUNDANCE CHANNEL, SUNDAYS, 8 P.M. E.T.