Some of us are still having trouble with the fact that Tia Mowry-Hardrict no longer graces BET's steamy dramedy, "The Game," which has grown increasingly avoidable since her departure. So it's initially jarring to see her as a stepmother to three kids on a fluffy Nickelodeon sitcom.
But there she is -- now a Stephanie, not a Melanie, and sooner or later we'll get over it.
"Instant Mom" (8:30 p.m. Sunday, Nick at Nite; 10:30 p.m. Nick Jr.) has Mowry-Hardict playing a former party girl newly married to an older man named Charlie (Michael Boatman). Yes, she has a ring on her finger, but she takes pride in the fact that she has retained at least a piece of her carefree youth. She still has nights out with her lady friends and can still fit into her skinny jeans.
As for her relationship with Charlie's kids, well she's quite satisfied with being just a "weekend mom."
But in Sunday's pilot episode, we learn that those kids (Sydney Park, Tylen Williams and Damarr Calhoun) are going to be more of a permanent fixture around the house, a situation that forces Stephanie to plunge right into motherhood with zero experience.
That's when "Instant Mom" becomes instantly predictable. Stephanie wriggles her way in and out of trouble via situations that are straight out of the sitcom playbook: She acts more like a friend than a parent to the teen-aged Gabby (Park) and it comes back to bite her. She feeds too many sweets to the boys and puke happens. When she's ready for some romance with Charlie and the kids barge in. ... You get the picture.
A potential source of help is Stephanie's loud and obnoxious mother, Maggie (Sheryl Lee Ralph), but these two apparently never got along. Anyway, Maggie probably spends more time laughing at her daughter's parental ineptitude than offering support.
"Instant Mom" may not do anything to reinvent the sitcom wheel, but it does deliver what you expect from Nickelodeon: A warm, harmless, family-friendly show that offers a few sweetly amusing moments mixed in with the predictable twists. The kids are quite adorable, too.
As for Mowry-Hardict, she still possesses the kind of ineffable, bright-eyed charm that puts viewers at ease. And when it comes to comic timing, she's still got game.