LOS ANGELES _ The three new network comedies launching Thursday night all use family as the fuel to spark laughs.
Will Arnett is joined by Emmy winners Beau Bridges and Margo Martindale in the new CBS series "The Millers," while Emmy winner Sean Hayes, best known for his days on "Will & Grace," plays a single dad in the new CBS comedy "Sean Saves the World." NBC also is adding "Welcome to the Family," starring Mike O'Malley ("Glee"), Mary McCormack ("In Plain Sight"), Ricardo Chavira ("Desperate Housewives") and Justina Machado ("Six Feet Under") as two families brought together by the children.
Here's a closer look at each show:
In "The Millers," Bridges and Martindale play Arnett's parents. When they decide to divorce, the absent-minded dad moves in with his son.
Playing the dad gives Bridges a lot of acting freedom.
"I think one thing that happens to you when you get older is you worry a little less about what you have to say to people, your loved ones and so forth. You just basically get it off your chest," Bridges says.
"The Millers" reunites Bridges with series creator Greg Garcia. They worked together on Garcia's previous series, "My Name Is Earl," where Bridges played the father to the show's title character. Bridges loves Garcia's writing, so he jumped at the chance to work with him again.
"It's all about the story, the writing. It all begins there 'The play's the thing,' like Shakespeare said a long time ago," Bridges says.
Martindale has been acting for years, but it wasn't until she turned 60 that her career went into high gear. Her Emmy-winning work on "Justified" took her to other series, including "A Gifted Man" and "The Americans." All three were serious dramas, so "The Millers" is a big change.
After winning the Emmy, Martindale's been able be more selective about work.
"I get to turn down jobs now, which is really something that didn't happen before. Things are great. I feel happy. I've worked all my life. ... You just didn't notice me," Martindale says.
As for making the move to comedy, she says: "It will keep me on my toes more."
_"Sean Save the World"
In "Sean Saves the World," Hayes plays a divorced gay dad whose life is complicated by his 14-year-old daughter (Samantha Isler), pushy mother (Linda Lavin) and demanding boss (Thomas Lennon).
A big difference between when "Will & Grace" launched in 1998 and now is that having a gay character on the show doesn't get the attention it once did. A modest Hayes talks about the impact "Will & Grace," which ended in 2006, had on the TV world.
"I think it was impactful, but to say that, being on it, I don't want it to sound egotistical. But to remove myself from 'Will & Grace,' I would like to believe that it had a big influence on the gay movement in America. According to Joe Biden, it did," Hayes says.
He says the landscape of television has changed. Now, the sexuality of a character is just an afterthought.
_"Welcome to the Family"
Parenting also is the focus of the new NBC comedy "Welcome to the Family." It looks at what happens when a couple on high school graduation day announce they are about to become parents. The future grandparents must find a way to get along despite some major differences.
O'Malley believes the show offers such a broad look at families that it will have a large appeal.
"This is a family over here that loves and dotes on their children and wants to do everything together. This is (another) family over here: We're happy our daughter is leaving for college. We want her out of the house, and we want her gone so we can get back to having the life we had before she was born," O'Malley says. "I think there's a lot of people that can relate to that. You know, you meet someone. You fall in love. You like to go to see music. You like to go to the movies. You read the same books. You want to do all these experiences. Then you have a kid, and you can't do all those things that you used to like to do together."
8:30 p.m. EDT Thursday, CBS
WELCOME TO THE FAMILY
8:30 p.m. EDT Thursday, NBC
SEAN SAVES THE WORLD
9 p.m. EDT Thursday, NBC
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