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Grammer's a family guy in 'Hank'

That's an extremely tall order, but the five-time Emmy Award winner is ready to do his best to fill it. He stars as a newly downsized businessman trying to reconnect with his immediate family as the ABC comedy series "Hank" premieres Wednesday, Sept. 30.

After others edge him out of the sports retail business he built, Hank Pryor leaves New York with wife Tilly (Melinda McGraw, ' Mad Men") and their children (Jordan Hinson, Nathan Gamble) for his spouse's Virginia hometown, River Bend. A much more modest lifestyle is a tough adjustment for the clan, not helped by Hank's brother-in-law ( "Saturday Night Live" alum David Koechner), who has a swell time ribbing him about his sudden reversal of fortune.

"I'm not sure most of the industry wants to talk about it," Grammer says of America's current economic condition, "so we thought we probably had a pretty open field to use it as a platform. It's a jumping-off place. What Hank really is dealing with is trying to survive a marriage and getting to know his children.

"It's what we all are dealing with in life, on some level, and that's what we hope will be relatable for everybody. We've put these people in a situation where life has changed, and they all have adjustments they have to make. By virtue of that, they'll be brought closer, and it hopefully will give them at least 100 stories to tell."

Sitcom master James Burrows – who directed the original version of the 'Hank" pilot episode (reshoots were done later) – also worked with Grammer on "Cheers," "Frasier" and the relatively brief Fox television-news satire " Back to You," so the star had reason to feel good going into his newest show. He maintains he has other reasons, too.

"This is what I actually do best," Grammer says of television comedy. "I enjoy it. Of course, I want some variety in my career, so I'll do the odd job here and there, but I love this form … the multiple-camera format. It's been marginalized a little bit in the last few years, and this is my personal campaign to help it stay. I just want to do my part to keep it alive."

With "Hank" leading off an entirely new Wednesday for ABC, the network clearly is counting on Grammer to deliver on a night also showcasing other proven television talents: Patricia Heaton – Grammer's leading lady on "Back to You" – stars in "The Middle," and Courteney Cox is in "Cougar Town." The mix also includes the much-buzzed-about comedy "Modern Family," along with "Eastwick," spun off from the book and movie "The Witches of Eastwick."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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