From all outward appearances, Lucie Arnaz has not led a normal life.
The daughter of television legends Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lucie grew up amid media attention - first on her parents incredible success and then on their divorce.And Lucie has emulated them in at least one aspect of her personal life. She's an actor married to another actor, Lawrence Luckinbill, and together they're raising five children.
Arnaz is one of the stars of CBS' new series "Sons and Daughters," a look at a supposedly normal family living in the Pacific northwest. But she said portraying Tess Hammersmith isn't anything out of the ordinary for her.
"Believe me, my family was extraordinarily normal," Arnaz said. "We had a few more privileges than some, maybe, but an equal amount of heartaches and tribulations. And we live through some of the same things every day right now that we're going through on the show.
"I mean, in the course of a day, what do you do? You teach your kids how to tie their shoes and deal with the death of your cat in the driveway and deal with ethics at work and try to raise a family and find time to do it all at the same time. That's a normal family, right? I mean, it doesn't have anything to do with people in show business or anything."
In "Sons and Daughters," which premieres Friday at 9 p.m. on Ch. 5, Arnaz portrays Tess Hammersmith, sort of the linchpin of the family. Single and in her late 30s, Tess lives in the family homestead with her adopted Asian daughter.
The extended family - all of whom live nearby - include Tess' younger sister, Patty, who's happily married to the high school football coach (Rick Rossovich of "Top Gun" and "Roxanne" fame), and their three children. There's also younger, yuppie brother Gary and his wife and infant daughter.
As the series opens, their long-absent father, Bing (Don Murray) returns from an extended trip with a new, much-younger wife and an infant son.
"My (real) family was healthier than this family," Arnaz said. "This family sort of dissipated at an early age when our mother-figure left.
Bing, a salesman, was on the road all the time, leaving Tess to raise her brother and sister.
"You set up a lot of problems right there," Arnaz said. "At least our family was pretty much together."
The series' producers promise that every episode will deal with the trials of raising a family, told from the different characters' points of views.
"It's a parenting show," said executive producer Brad Buckner. "It is not just about a family living out its life. Every springboard for every story is always the parenting experience."
Arnaz, meanwhile, is working on just her second series since she spent several seasons on "Here's Lucy." (She also starred in her own short-lived sitcom on CBS a few years ago.) And she's keeping up with her successful nightclub act and working on a musical based on her father's life.
Not that she's tried terribly hard, but no matter what Arnaz does she can't escape comparisons to her famous mother.
"Even when I do dramatic shows, they always find the comical scene in it. It's a funny thing," she said. "I always figured acting is acting. And some of it's funny to you, but it should never be funny to the character, anyway. So I always approach it like a drama."
Writers are often trying to find some sort of genetic link between Lucie and her mother when it comes to inherited comedic ability.
"Heaven knows I've learned a lot from watching people and I had an opportunity to watch the best so maybe some of it's inherited. I don't know," she said.
"I'd hate to think that . . . if Hitler had children they'd all be like him, too."