November 30, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Disclaimer:  Network pilots now in circulation are not necessarily in the form that will air in the Fall.  Pilots are often reedited and rescored, and in some cases even recast or reshot.  So these critiques shouldn’t be taken as full reviews, but rather as a guide to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.
I HATE MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER –  Wednesday 9:30PM on FOX:  Change the Channel

Have you seen the title, I HATE MY TEENAGE DAUGHTER?  Do you get it?  Good:  you’ve just saved 23 minutes out of your life–30 if you watch the commercials.  Teenage Daughter is one of those pilots so dreadful that you can’t help but wonder just how bad a show had to be not to get on its network’s fall schedule.  This one isn’t just painful but more than a little ugly.

You don’t believe me.  How bad can it be, you say?  Well, try this for repartee:  An ex-wife (Katie Finneran) criticizes her ex-husband’s parenting by saying “Maybe you should get a job, instead of playing golf with your stupid buddies!”  Retorts he:  “I’m a golf pro!”  (Apparently there just wasn’t enough of this brand of sparkling humor, because later in the pilot, the other ex-husband complains “How can I be a bad parent?  I’m never even here!”  And he means it.)   The other mother of the piece (Jaime Pressley), accused by her mean girl daughter of not understanding her life, due to being a social outcast herself in high school, protests:  “You know who else was an outcast?  Jesus, and I think he’s pretty popular!”  I could go on.  And on.
Teenage Daughter was written by the team of Sherry Bilsing and Ellen Kreamer, who’ve been writing together since Friends, most recently on The New Adventures of Old Christine.  So it’s anyone’s guess why this thing is so bad.  More troubling is the rancid point of view it takes.  The premise of the show, as you can tell from the title, is that Pressley and Finneran, both tormented in high school (one was sheltered by religious fanatic parents, the other was extremely overweight and had a skin condition) have spoiled their own daughters, who have become exactly the sort of popular, rotten girls who made their lives miserable.  This could have been an entry point for some perceptive comedy, but instead the joke is that the mothers are both still pathetic losers at heart.  So we get Finneran (the previously overweight one), in a moment of stress, digging her hands into a pie and shoving it into her mouth (playing the rest of the scene with gooey pie all over her face), while Pressley, who has a crush on her ex-husband’s brother (Kevin Rahm, recently one of the gay neighbors on Desperate Housewives), turns into a gushing imbecile in his presence.  (This, let me remind you, is a show written and produced by women.)  The daughters (Aisha Dee and Kristi Lauren) are manipulative monsters, and so is their school principal, who was once one of the girls torturing Finneran.  The laugh track howls at everything (flat multicamera direction by Andy Ackerman); I felt like Malcolm McDowell strapped down with his eyeballs held open in A Clockwork Orange.

The two things Teenage Daughter does have going for it are its stars.  Pressley was marvelous on My Name Is Earl, and Finneran stole “Promises, Promises” out from under Sean Hayes and Kristen Chenoweth on Broadway; both are naturally likable and have expert timing (although they’re both clearly far smarter than their idiot characters).  Against all odds, they occasionally manage to suggest human beings in this shambles, but their fans would be better off waiting for their next projects.

Teenage Daughter may not be the flop it deserves to be:  FOX has given it a prime timeslot, following the Wednesday installment of X-Factor, and Mitch Metcalf’s projection has it behind Criminal Minds and Happy Endings, but ahead of the aged audience for NBC’s Harry’s Law.  Success, though, isn’t the same as quality, and the best to be said about this so-called comedy is that it conveniently already has the word Hate in its title.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."