Generations bump in new NBC sitcom ‘Crowded’

SHARE Generations bump in new NBC sitcom ‘Crowded’

“Crowded” stars Carlease Burke (from left), Stacy Keach, Patrick Warburton, Carrie Preston, Miranda Cosgrove and Mia Serafino. | NBC

One generation is company. Three generations is “Crowded.”

That’s the essence of NBC’s new family sitcom, which gets a two-episode preview Tuesday starting at 9 p.m. on WMAQ-Channel 5.

In “Crowded,” Mike (Patrick Warburton, “Rules of Engagement”) and Martina (Carrie Preston, “True Blood”) are enjoying empty-nest life, complete with assignations around the house. Their escapades are abbreviated, however, as grown daughters Shea (Miranda Cosgrove, “iCarly”) and Stella (Mia Serafino, “Shameless”) move back home, leading Mike’s father, Bob (Stacy Keach, “Truth”), and his wife, Alice (Carlease Burke, “Switched at Birth”), to decide against moving away to Florida.

“It’s a great portrayal of a marriage, and it’s a positive one,” says Preston, a standout as a quirky lawyer on “The Good Wife.” “Mike and Martina like to have [their daughters] around, but we hope that they’ll become adults and maybe find their own way and their own life. I think a lot of people nowadays are dealing with the boomerang generation. They’ve raised their kids to love being in the family, so they don’t want to go. What do you do then?”

“Crowded,” which this weekend moves to its regular slot at 8:30 p.m. Sundays, comes in one of TV’s most recognizable styles, the multi-camera format filmed in front of a studio audience, but it doesn’t dwell in the past, she says.

“It’s a very traditional sitcom, but it does have a contemporary bent to it,” Preston says. “Our daughters are openly sexually active. In the pilot, [Mike and Martina] are smoking a joint. Stuff like that nowadays is something a television audience can accept, but maybe a decade ago it wouldn’t have been allowed.”

The deep-voiced Warburton, remembered as “Seinfeld’s” Puddy, finds Mike and his interactions with different characters appealing. His bar-owner father is more traditional, while his daughters are poles apart in personality. Shea is the brainy nerd, Stella is the popular rebel, and each could use the other’s expertise in negotiating adulthood.

“In past roles, at least in the realm of sitcoms, I’ve never had an opportunity to play a character with much depth,” Warburton says. “Mike is a father who has a relationship with his father, his wife, his daughters. It was an opportunity to stretch, to be a little more well-rounded.”

“Crowded” features estimable talent behind the scenes. Suzanne Martin (“Hot in Cleveland,” “Frasier”) created the series and serves as an executive producer with “Will & Grace’s” Sean Hayes and legendary director James Burrows. The finale of “Crowded’s” 13-episode season was the 1,000th episode of TV directed by Burrows.

Keach, a Burrows classmate at Yale Drama School, praises the director, who was honored with a recent NBC special for his work on such classic comedies as “Taxi,” “Will & Grace,” “Cheers” and “Friends.” Bob’s bar in “Crowded” might remind viewers of the iconic “Cheers” watering hole.

Burrows “has an understanding, not only of actors and character and script, but he also knows how to use the camera,” Keach says. He’s hoping the director has another successful sitcom to add to his list: “He’s got the Midas touch.”

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