Oh Grow Up Review

New York Daily News, September 22, 1999

These guys just may 'Grow' on you

Yes, Oh Grow Up has some problems. But it's also snappily written, smartly cast and brashly performed -- this in a season in which new sitcoms meriting descriptions like snappily, smart and brash are about as common as dry socks on the North Carolina shore.

At its core, Oh Grow Up is about three well-meaning single guys in their 30s trying to figure out where their lives are heading. The short answer is that they're pretty much clueless, although in a much smarter, more self-aware way than the dopes in NBC's dreadful Tuesday-night traffic accident, The Mike O'Malley Show.

When Oh Grow Up begins, we meet Norris and Hunter, friends since college, now roommates sharing a brownstone in Brooklyn. Norris (David Alan Basche) is a struggling artist with more attitude than talent; Hunter (Stephen Dunham) runs a construction company and has a confusingly busy sex life.

A third friend, Ford (John Ducey), moves in after he realizes that he's gay and his marriage crumbles. Ford's sharp-tongued wife (played by Rena Sofer) remains in the picture, however, if for no other reason than to deliver some of the show's most witheringly funny insults.

Very quickly, these three men become three men and a teenager: An 18-year-old named Chloe (Niesha Trout) appears one day to inform Hunter that he's her father, although he didn't know she existed.

Did I mention there's a dog named Mom? Did I mention that Mom's barks are translated in English subtitles and that the pooch has a droll sense of humor? Well, I know I mentioned that the show has problems.

Besides Mom being a stretch, Dunham brings so many Ted Danson/Sam Malone moves to the role of Hunter that it actually feels kind of creepy. And the character's casual attitude toward having multiple sex partners -- the same sensibility that lent a rascally quality to Sam when Cheers premiered in 1982 -- feels more than a little reckless these days.

On the other hand, the Chloe story line is played more for laughs than for pseudo-poignancy, and Trout lends a deft touch to a character who comes off as considerably more mature than the men twice her age.

And the show even offers some funny observational wisdom about the way men sometimes relate to one another. Ford, for example, noting the constant low-level bickering between Norris and Hunter, says, "I'm just another married gay guy living with a couple of straight guys married to each other."

Silliness aside, Oh Grow Up has the makings of a clever show about and for grownups. Tonight's premiere is encouraging.

 -- Eric Mink

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