So innocuous and retro-minded it could have easily found a place on ABC's "TGIF" lineup circa 1994, multicamera sitcom "Are We There Yet" reps a disappointing retreat into blandness for showrunner Ali LeRoi and star Terry Crews, who last collaborated on the far superior "Everybody Hates Chris." Nominally based on the Ice Cube-starring kiddie pic while featuring an entirely new cast, this feather-light show ought to mollify undiscriminating youngsters, though it's always a shame to see talented stars mailing it in.
Taking off where 2007's "Money Pit"-aping sequel "Are We Done Yet" left off, in the show Nick (Crews) is a former athlete newly married to Suzanne (Essence Atkins), a single mom whose teenage kids (Teala Dunn and Coy Stewart) show him mild hostility.
Though highly formulaic, the episodes rarely seem to follow the traditional A-plot/B-plot format, instead giving every character his or her own subplot to add to the mix. Nods to contempo life are integrated into age-old sitcom tropes: Parental snooping is now accomplished via Facebook, and a mother-daughter argument over a sweater is somehow tied to Michelle Obama.
Some of the situations stretch the limits of credibility, notably a baffling subplot in which Nick objects to Suzanne coming to bed looking too casual, despite the fact she's wearing nightclub-heavy makeup.
Scripting also is hampered by some ungainly construction; gags that should be throwaway one-liners are laboriously pondered over, and the canned laugh track seems to kick in at inappropriate places. The occasionally stilted dialogue doesn't make it easy for the cast, which otherwise performs passably.
Still, the series' overall sweetness makes up for a number of its failings, and Keesha Sharp ("Girlfriends"), in a recurring role as Suzanne's best friend, is often quite funny.
And for old-school rap fans, the sight of exec producer Ice Cube (guest-starring as Nick's threatening brother-in-law) professing his love for Will Smith in a Doughboy-style snarl provides some clever meta-humor.