April 3, 2013

PREMIERING TONIGHT: “How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)” PILOT REVIEW



HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS (FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE):  Wednesday 9:30PM on ABC –  Change the Channel

There isn’t much to be said for the exhaustively titled midseason comedy HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS (FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE), but within the subgenre of sitcoms about adults living with their parents, at least it avoids the trope of having the parents desperately wanting the kids out because their retirement, sex lives or other late in life amusements are being interfered with.  On the contrary, Elaine (Elizabeth Perkins) and second husband Max (Brad Garrett) are completely accepting of Polly (Sarah Chalke) and granddaughter Natalie (Rachel Eggleston) staying with them. In a slight twist on the cliche, it’s Polly who wants out.

At least so Polly says, but since she has what seems to be a perfectly reasonable job that pays her a salary, and there doesn’t appear to be anything else standing in the way of she and Natalie getting an apartment, one assumes that really she stays because of the comfort of retreating to home base.  This doesn’t make an enormous amount of sense, considering the way Elaine and Max are drawn in Claudia Lonow’s script.  The two are survivors of the 60s who once let Polly grow up in the midst of drugs and general licentiousness, and without a lot of effort put into quality parenting (one gag in the pilot is that neither Polly nor Elaine can remember Polly ever being bathed).  They’re such genial messes that they can’t even handle babysitting Natalie for a single evening, managing in the most obvious ways to break every single rule Polly had tried to set.  Polly voices resentment about all that, but still doesn’t go anywhere.

That conflict between straightlaced, neurotic Polly and free-spirited, hippy-dippy Elaine and Max is meant to be the meat of How To Live, and it’s not much to chew on.  The only other major character is Polly’s ex-husband Julian (Jon Dore), a–former?–gambler who keeps finding excuses to hang around Elaine and Max’s house so he can be with Polly and Natalie.  (Polly is also sighted momentarily at her job–reshot from the office where she worked in the original version of the pilot–but it’s not clear how important that setting is intended to be as part of the show.)

Sarah Chalke is very good at neurotic, as fans of Scrubs will recall (in the era of Big, Elizabeth Perkins might have played her part, just about the only thing believably mother-and-daughter about them), and she digs about all there is to mine from the material.  Parkins and Garrett, of course, are also seasoned pros, but How To Live can’t avoid repetition just in the span of its initial half-hour:  when the pilot has to use Max’s having had a testicle removed as a running gag, it’s clear the script isn’t loaded with A-list material.  Neither the issues between the characters nor the sentimental “but we”re all one family” ending is compelling, and under Julie Anne Robinson’s direction, it all feels shticky and uninspired.

There have been worse comedies this season than How To Live.  But the show’s Twitter-resistant title is the only thing genuinely distinctive or memorable about it.

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."