Parent Traps Home is where the humor is
There's no such thing as a normal family on Fox, from the long-running animated hits to the newer breed of live-action wackiness epitomized by Malcolm in the Middle. You probably wouldn't want to live in these homes, but visiting can be a scream.
Fox's savagely funny Titus (Tuesdays, 8:30 pm/ET), hitting its bitter stride in its second year, acknowledges its dysfunction up front. "In a normal family, a surprise means presents, cake and a party. In my family, doing something nice is seen as an attack," says star Christopher Titus in one of his signature self-lacerating monologues, shot in black and white in what looks like a prison cell.
You can't blame him for feeling primed for failure, given a womanizing, alcoholic dad (a ferocious Stacy Keach) who "has swallowed the soul of everyone he's ever loved," and a psycho mom (Frances Fisher) fresh out of the asylum.
Titus fearlessly treads in dark waters, as when Titus, his business failing, goes on a bender after 13 years sober, imperiling relationships with his long-suffering fiancée, Erin (Cynthia Watros), his demented brother, Dave (Zack Ward), and his timid best friend, Tommy (David Shatraw). The way they rally around one another allows for some optimism. Still, we're grateful Titus hasn't started his own family yet.
Whereas having children too early in life (in high school) is the concept behind Fox's brash but derivative Grounded for Life (Wednesdays, 8:30 pm/ET), which is starting to grow on me.
Recalling Roseanne in its blue-collar rowdiness and tone of loving aggravation, it stars the terrific Donal Logue and Megyn Price as parents who barely feel adult. Always wanting to seem cool, they're terrible at discipline, especially on shrill teenage daughter Lily (Lynsey Bartilson).
A typical episode, unfolding, like Titus, in a fragmented style of quick-cutting flashbacks and blackouts, dissects the anatomy of some domestic screwup. My favorite character: Jimmy (Griffin Frazen), the hilariously solemn middle child who squirms in anguish sometimes hiding in the dryer whenever subjected to his folks' bad judgment.
Something tells me The Simpsons is probably this family's favorite show.