All of UsAll of Us

Movie star couple Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith created the sitcom All of Us to mirror their own path to domestic bliss. The result is postcard propaganda showing how fun and profitable it is to blend families via divorce, cohabitation and remarriage.

At the series’ center is the well-heeled Robert James (Duane Martin), an ET-style L.A. entertainment reporter. Presumably Robert is meant to resemble Will. If so, his live-in school-teacher fiancée, Tia (Elise Neal), would represent Jada. Tia moves in with Robert after he separates from Neesee (Lisa Raye), the mother of his kindergartner, Bobby Jr.

Most of the series’ conflict involves battles between Robert and the two females in his life. Jealousy is a natural consequence of their situation, as are territorialism and furtive attempts to control one another. Things get really heated when Robert tries to shame Neesee into quitting her job so that she can raise Bobby Jr. full time. (Both women systematically bludgeon him for holding such “outdated� ideals.)

In another episode Robert and Neesee nearly come to blows when Robert insists he wants to instill a hefty dose of “masculine� aggressiveness in Bobby Jr. by teaching him to spar and showing him videotapes of Muhammad Ali. “I’m trying to raise a man here, not a woman!� he says. Neesee counters that she’s trying to raise a son, not a bully. In this case, Robert wins the skirmish after Neesee backs down, mortified that she had been trying to send poor Bobby out into the world like a “declawed cat.�

Amazingly, Robert and Neesee never let their own disagreements taint their devotion to their young son or keep them from trying to look out for his best interests. That’s this series’ brightest spot. Unfortunately, its provocative themes get a little too provocative.

Just when a story line proffers the idea that women are more desirable for their intellects than for their bodies, Robert’s friend Dirk crows that he and his new squeeze have such stimulating conversations that they can’t help but finish them in bed. And Dirk’s brother, who underwent a sex change operation, proves his new womanhood by doing a striptease at Robert’s bachelor party.

UPN boasts that All of Us “reflects a new generation’s enlightened attitude toward the extended family dynamic.� If by “enlightened� the network means permissive and amoral, I couldn’t agree more.

March 30, April 6, 13, 20, 27, 2004