April 11, 2013

THE SKED PILOT + 1 REVIEW: “How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)”



A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and the production of episodes for the regular season: a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads. The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting, and even story. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.’

Previously… on HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS (FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE):  When Polly’s (Sarah Chalke) marriage to Julian (Jon Dore) fell apart, she walked out, their daughter Natalie (Rachel Eggleston) in tow.  Where she walked was to her mother Elaine (Elizabeth Perkins) and stepfather Max (Brad Garrett), a 60s-ish couple who are both mellow and meddlesome.  Polly tries to give Natalie the strong parenting she never had, while Julian, now contrite, hangs around and hopes for reconciliation.

Episode 2:  I wish I could believe that the consistently self-centered, oblivious stupidity of every character on How To Live reflected some kind of subversively satiric view of the world.  But it’s depressingly clear that this is just horrid, low-grade sitcom writing.  The dynamic of the show is that Elaine and Max are lazy and narcissistic, but also occasionally–if misguidedly–concerned, so they take some action that briefly allows them to feel virtuous but actually makes everything worse.  Polly, who is neurotic and deluded, but still more level-headed than the oldsters, has to save the day.

That formula was applied to tonight’s second episode, written by Story Editors David McHugh and Matt Flanagan and directed by Alex Hardcastle, with Polly deciding to express her new-found desire to become involved in the world by running a 5K for charity (although it’s not just that 5 kilometers is longer than she thinks, she’s apparently shocked to find out it’s more than 50 feet) and immediately falling and hurting her back, while Elaine and Max decide that Julian is holding Polly back by his constant presence, so they tell him to stay away.  This leads to the episode’s chief source of “humor,” which is the grandparents being entirely unable to take care of Natalie without Polly or Julian to take charge–and by “unable to take care,” that includes making lunch, doing a jigsaw puzzle or reading a story.  Of course, it turns out that Polly knew all along what her parents had done, and she was just teaching them a lesson!  Har har. The characters on Modern Family often do dumb things, but there’s always a certain logic to their mistakes–as exaggerated as the situations are, everyone still acts like a believable, moderately complicated human being.  Not so here.

This episode was filled with truly awful stuff, like gags about Elaine telling an Indian child that magical cows take care of them before they’re born (and then making Indian vs. Native American remarks to the child’s father), and not one but two characters dressed as a frozen yogurt.  As talented as Chalke, Perkins and Garrett are, there’s no performer who could corral laughter out of any of this, and while the show is paced fairly well and it goes professionally through its paces, it’s still agony to watch.  Its one supposed innovation in style, the Perez Hilton-type written comments scrawled over the action, is already 2 years behind the curve, and there’s nothing else imaginative enough here to make time spent with the show’s quartet of selfish idiots worthwhile.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

EPISODE 2:  How To Watch A Half-Hour Sitcom (And Have It Feel Like It’s Lasting the Rest of Your Life)


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."