Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Home Economics’ On ABC, Where Three Siblings Deal With Living At Three Different Income Levels

Face it: If you have siblings, you’re either lending money to one of them or asking another to lend you money. Why? Because not everyone is in a solid financial situation at the same time and if you have a good relationship with your siblings you know they’ll have your back. But it’s hard; there’s pride involved and the shared history you have. A new sitcom shows the dynamic among three siblings, each of whom are in different financial situations.

Opening Shot: A writer puts on his glasses and starts to type on his laptop.

The Gist: Tom Hayworth (Topher Grace) is writing a novel about his family, though he doesn’t want them to know he’s doing it. He starts his first chapter by explaining that he and his two siblings live at different income levels.

He’s a successful novelist, but lives a definitively middle-class life with his wife Marina (Karla Souza) and three kids — two of which are 1 year-old twins. Because Marina decided to put her career as an attorney to be a stay-at-home mom, and because his last book barely sold, he’s hard up for cash. His younger sister Sarah (Caitlin McGee) lives in a teeny-tiny apartment with her wife Denise (Sasheer Zamata) and their two kids, whose “room” is a loft platform. The youngest, Connor (Jimmy Tatro), just moved with his daughter to the Bay area, closer to his siblings; he made a buttload of money in finance and bought his sprawling house directly from Matt Damon.

On the family’s first visit to Connor’s new house — complete with a playroom that, as Marina puts it, “looks like an American Girl store knocked up a Sephora” — the old sibling rivalries flare up. For one, Connor promised their parents (Nora Dunn, Phil Reeves) that he’d take them to “The Turks and the Caicos,” as their mom put it, for Thanksgiving. Tom and Sarah feel like they should have been consulted, especially since the entire family does Thanksgiving together every year.

But the big point of contention is that Tom is having difficulty asking Connor for a loan to help him through this rough stretch. He just doesn’t want to ask his little brother for money and doesn’t want to feel indebted to him. But, fueled by wine and her general DGAF attitude, Marina comes right out and asks. That is when Sarah lets it slip that she lost her job and her family is just living off Denise’s income. As the spat goes on, Connor gets frustrated and storms out, which is when both of the other couples realize that Connor and his daughter are there without his wife; they’re either divorced or in the process of getting divorced.

Photo: Temma Hankin/ABC

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? While the “siblings with different incomes” angle doesn’t have a ton of precedence, Home Economics has a similar loose feel as a previous ABC hang-out show, Happy Endings, perhaps mixed in with its more recent series, Single Parents.

Our Take: We watched the first two episodes of Home Economics, developed by John Aboud and Michael Colton, and see the makings of a really good show. Led by Topher Grace, on his first network sitcom since That ’70s Show, the cast has a good chemistry together, and we can immediately see the family dynamic between the Hayworth siblings and the fact that the spouses — Marina and Denise — reluctantly are along for the crazy ride.

The income disparities among the three siblings are a good way into the show, as a way to define and differentiate them. But what’s going to carry the show is having them more fleshed out as characters and the squabbling but loving relationship they have with each other. Yes, it’s funny when they all chase each other down the street in some of the fleet of miniature cars Connor bought for his daughter. But jokes about their relative net worths really won’t take the show very far.

No, what will take the show far is Grace as his usual fumbling persona, as the guy who holds things together. It’ll hang on McGee being the passionate one, who believes in what she does and what she stands for. And it depends on Tarto being a shade childish, despite his ability to manage money and invest wisely; he’s almost a savant at Monopoly, a game the three of them always played together.

We just wish things were funnier. Do we like seeing Grace fly off a treadmill? Sure. In the second episode, Sarah tries to dissuade Denise from wanting a big wedding by watching Denise’s favorite wedding show with her, and the entire family ends up tearing up due to the heart-rending stories. So there are pockets of chuckle-worthy moments. But there weren’t any laugh-out-loud moments, and that’s a concern.

Why? Because, while the show is designed to be about the family dynamic between these siblings, but it’s also written to deliver big laugh lines at a relatively rapid pace. And the vast majority of those lines didn’t land. Perhaps as the characters get more established, these funny lines will get better. But there seems to be a disparity between the warm relationship between these siblings and the funny lines that are supposed to come out of this relationship. But the relationship is so well-established so early, we’re rooting for it to get funnier.

Sex and Skin: None.

Parting Shot: As the family plays Monopoly at Tom’s house, we hear Tom’s voice over/book narration talk about how they all grew closer… until they found out he was writing about them.

Sleeper Star: We’ll give this to both Souza, who’s so effective as the SAHM that is regretting some of her life choices and Zameta, who loves Sarah’s passion but also keeps it in line when needed.

Most Pilot-y Line: Everyone talking about pooping in Connor’s Bluetooth-equipped toilet. Even the grownups said “poop.” That’s “network funny,” not real-life funny.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Even though Home Economics starts off on a shaky foot in the funny department, the chemistry among the ensemble is so good that we’re hoping the show gets better over time.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.comVanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.

Stream Home Economics On ABC.com