Tuesday, April 02, 2013

ABC Midseason Pilot Review: How to Live with Your Parents - Premieres April 3; Episodic Reviews: The New Normal - "Finding Name-O" and "The Big Day" Airing Tonight on NBC

How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)

How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) - Wednesdays at 9:30PM ET/PT on ABC
Premieres Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:30PM ET/PT


by skees53

Polly (Sarah Chalke) is a single mom who has recently divorced. The transition hasn't been easy for her, especially in this economy. So, like a lot of young people living in this new reality, she and her daughter, Natalie (Rachel Eggleston), have moved back home with her eccentric parents, Elaine (two time Golden Globe® and Emmy® nominee Elizabeth Perkins) and Max (three time Emmy® winner Brad Garrett). But Polly and her parents look at life through different generational lenses. Polly (in contrast to how she was raised) aspires to be organized and together, while Max and Elaine live a more free-flowing, improvisational life-style. Polly wants to take it slow with new relationships, while her parents encourage her to be more sexually adventurous. Polly's co-worker and close friend, Jenn (Stephanie Hunt), also encourages her to jump right back into the dating world. Polly and her parents' views on parenting itself also conflict: Polly wants to be an involved modern parent, but Max and Elaine are laid back, hands-off parents from the 1970s. Polly believes children need to be sheltered and have structure and guidance, while Max and Elaine feel that children need the freedom to fall and pick themselves back up. After all, Polly turned out okay, so what's the big deal?

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but in Polly's case, this village is on fire, and although her ex-husband Julian's (Jon Dore) intentions are good, he doesn't exactly help extinguish the flames. But through figuring out how to live with her dysfunctional family, Polly realizes she might even be able to learn a few helpful things about herself.

Cast Details:
Sarah Chalke as Polly
Elizabeth Perkins as Elaine
Jon Dore as Julian
Rachel Eggleston as Natalie
Stephanie Hunt as Jenn
Brad Garrett as Max

Sarah Chalke (Polly) is best known for her role as Dr. Elliot Reid on the Emmy Award-winning ABC series Scrubs. The single-camera series was hailed as ground-breaking, as it deftly combined black humor and surreal interludes without diminishing the seriousness of life in a hospital. A native of Ottawa, Canada, she was raised in Vancouver and began appearing in local musical theatre productions when she was eight. A few years later she became an environmental reporter for the Canadian series Kid Zone. Her big break came in 1993 when she was cast as daughter Becky Conner on the ABC series Roseanne. Chalke recently starred on the CBS comedy Mad Love, opposite Jason Biggs and Judy Greer. She had a recurring role as Stella Zinmann on the Emmy Award-winning comedy series How I Met Your Mother and a guest arc on ABC's Cougar Town, teaming up again with her former Scrubs creator/writer, Bill Lawrence.

Elizabeth Perkins (Elaine) has been lucky enough to have a rather "eclectic" career, but perhaps her best known role was that of Celia Hodes on Weeds, which earned her 2006 and 2007 Golden Globe® nominations and 2006 and 2007 Emmy® nominations for Best Supporting Actress. She made her film debut in Ed Zwick's About Last Night..., but her breakthrough performance came in the Tom Hanks movie Big. Additionally, Perkins was (on the big screen, at least) married to Fred Flintstone as she played the role of Wilma Flintstone in the movie adaptation of The Flintstones.

Jon Dore (Julian) is known as the star of his own award-winning mockumentary series, The Jon Dore Television Show, documenting his hilarious and outrageous debates on life's challenges and changes, from weight loss to gender. The series ran for a successful two seasons on IFC and The Comedy Network in Canada. Dore also served as co-creator, co-producer and writer on the series, proving he is just as comfortable behind the camera. Renowned for his offbeat humor and unique bait-and-switch comedic style, Dore is a favorite on the comedy club and festival circuit. He has had sold-out runs at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal and Toronto, at the Washington (DC), Portland, Vancouver and Halifax festivals, and more recently at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee.

Rachel Eggleston (Natalie) is relatively new to TV, as she began her professional career in the fall of 2010. Off to a great start, she booked her second audition for a national commercial and has been working consistently ever since. She has appeared in many national commercials and had roles in a number of television sitcoms and dramas, including House M.D., The Mentalist, and Austin & Ally.

Stephanie Hunt (Jenn) is an actress and musician from Austin, Texas. After only a week of time off from the University of Texas, Hunt was cast as Devin Boland in the television hit series Friday Night Lights. In 2009 she starred in and co-wrote a film about Valentine's Day entitled Love & Tambourines, which premiered at the Austin Film Festival. Hunt also sings with the band Cowboy and Indian, which in 2011 played at the Austin City Limits Festival. In addition, she writes and performs songs on her own.

Brad Garrett (Max) was only 23 years old when he first appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, making him one of the youngest comedians ever featured, but that certainly isn't what he is best known for. He is best known for his role as Robert Barone on the Emmy-winning series Everybody Loves Raymond, for which he won three individual Emmys. He starred as Jackie Gleason in the telefilm Gleason, which earned him both Emmy and Screen Actors Guild nominations. Additionally he starred on Broadway opposite Matthew Broderick in Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. Additionally, Garrett appeared in the starring role of Eddie Stark during the entire four season run of Fox's 'Til Death.

Pilot Plot:

"Pilot" (airs Wednesday, April 3 at 9:30PM ET/PT)

In the pilot episode for the series, recently divorced (and now single mother) Polly shows up on the doorstep of the last place in the world she'd ever hoped to be: the home of her mother, Elaine, and her stepfather, Max. It isn't that she'd hoped for things to turn out this way, but since she is raising a child while maintaining employment at a coffee shop, her options are pretty limited.

All would be fine with this arrangement if Elaine and Max were June and Ward Cleaver, but unfortunately for Polly (and even more so for Polly's daughter Natalie), they aren't. In fact, as we get to know them (particularly her grossly inappropriate mother Elaine, who has even had relations with a Chicago Bull... but can't remember which one), it seems amazing that she turned out as normal as she did. Compounding matters is Polly's ex-husband Julian, who just can't seem to go away, and seems to be around often enough to be part of the family.

After we're formally introduced to everybody, Polly is set to go on a date with a new boyfriend. But with a lack of other options, she is forced to leave her daughter with the people who could possibly be the worst babysitters ever, leading to a night full of chaos for everybody.

Analysis:

First and foremost, it is important to say that this wasn't a bad pilot. I really like the premise of the series, and it goes without saying that they've really put together an all-star cast that we all know from top-rated series in the past. But I do feel that there is something missing in the pilot.

I really do love all of the three main cast members. But as I was watching this pilot, I felt like I was watching the characters replay their roles from their most recent series. Watching Perkins felt too much like Celia from Weeds, watching Garrett felt like Eddie from 'Til Death, and watching Chalke even (oddly enough) felt like Elliot Reed from Scrubs (without J.D., of course). I liked those characters in those series, and I certainly feel that they all played those characters very well. But I was still hoping to see something a little new from them in this series. Not anything too dramatically different, but slightly different. This seems to be a big problem with a lot of sitcoms this season, that everybody wants to try to bring back the exact same characters from now canceled series (and we've seen a lot of our favorites end in recent years) in a new environment.

I also felt that the pilot episode itself was a bit too drawn out in introducing everybody and everything all at once. For example, I'm wondering if it was really necessary to bring in Julian (Polly's ex-husband) into the series for the first episode. I can understand making him an integral part of the series, but his role really didn't seem to be all that relevant to the pilot episode, and I can't understand why it was necessary to put him in so soon. It felt like he was really just there to prove to us that he existed, and nothing more.

Of course, it may seem like I'm just focusing on the negatives. But to reiterate, this wasn't a bad pilot, and there were some good moments in there. One of the things that I loved in the pilot was seeing the interactions between Polly's parents and Natalie. I'm so used to seeing sitcoms where the grandparents and the kids have such positive interactions, but the way that Natalie interacts with her own grandparents is mostly with a lot of terror and fear. In fact, Polly even anticipates these problems and tries to prepare Natalie as much as possible. Unfortunately for Natalie, the preparation isn't quite good enough.

Conclusion:

Even though I didn't come out all too impressed with the pilot, I still feel that the series is more than capable of improving as it progresses. Pilot episodes tend to be a bit misleading at times, as they're forced to bend over backwards to introduce us to the cast, characters, and plot, and since there was so much going on in this one, that took a bit longer than usual.

It is hard to really predict how successful this series will be. It will be airing in the time slot following the popular series Modern Family, but in the modern era of DVR and online streaming, that doesn't provide as much of a guarantee of success as it used to (and other shows airing in this slot have struggled). Still, I'm optimistically hopeful about this series, and I think that anybody watching this (myself included) should give it a few weeks before making a final decision on how good (or bad) it is.

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Watchability: 4/5
Funniness: 3/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Discuss the show after you watch it on Wednesday, April 3, 2013 at 9:30PM ET/PT on our message board.

Related Links:
  • ABC.com Official Site
  • TV.com
  • epguides.com
  • Internet Movie Database
  • Wikipedia
  • How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) Photo Gallery

    Preview:








  • On the next...The New Normal:
    By: Vincent NBC's Tuesday freshman comedy produced by Ryan Murphy airs Tuesday nights at 9:30pm and we have just watched the two-episode season finale that airs tonight (April 2). In the first episode airing tonight, "Finding Name-O," Bryan (Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha) are facing the hardest decision of their relationship, what to name their baby. The conflict prompts Goldie (Georgia King) to reveal the origin of Shania's (Bebe Wood) name leading to brief identity crises for both of them. Later, While breezing through their wedding planning, David suggests that Bryan invite his mother Colleen (guest star Mary Kay Place), but her added opinion leads to more conflict and an unusual resolution. Meanwhile, Clay (Jayson Blair) decides it's time to let Goldie know how he feels, after receiving some unsolicited advice from Brice (guest star John Stamos). In the season finale, "The Big Day," the wedding is finally here and despite all of the challenges that pop up throughout the day, Bryan (Andrew Rannells) and David (Justin Bartha) are dead set on getting married before the arrival of their baby, but their son has other plans.

    The New Normal's 2-episode finale deals with the long-awaited wedding of Bryan and David. The first airing, "Finding Name-O," centers around David convincing Bryan to invite his mother to the wedding, and the show nicely hits a lot of dramatic beats about the troubled relationship between the two. The broken bond between Bryan and his mother is believable and well-played by Andrew Rannells and guest star Mary Kay Place. The episode also does an interesting job of exploring the conflict between Bryan and David's relationship as they continuously argue over what to name their soon-to-be-born son. The episode's biggest problem is that it's light on laughs - the show hasn't quite found its comic rhythm and just isn't much of a laugh-out-loud comedy, which is a bit disappointing since the cast is very funny and talented. However, some good character work and solid acting makes this an enjoyable enough episode and a good set-up for the big wedding finale.



    Unfortunately, the big wedding itself (in "The Big Day") is a bit of a disappointment. For a show that claims to be all about breaking tradition, the wedding episode sticks to just about every "sitcom wedding" cliche in the book, making the finale far too predictable. The wedding also feels very rushed - the show crams an awful lot of plot into just a half-hour, so much that I have to wonder why they didn't make the actual wedding a two-part episode. The show's ratings have dropped considerably this spring, so the episode works very hard to tie up every loose end in case the show doesn't get a second season. While that's understandable, it makes the ending to the season's various storylines feel abrupt and unsatisfying, making for a disappointing season (and possibly series) finale. First episode: B-, Second episode: C


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