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Spring 2013 Review: How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)

5 Apr

Instructional program on living with one's parents for the foreseeable future

How To Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) (yes, that title is a ridiculously too long mouthful, like this comment) is clearly trying its best to be a Modern Family clone.  This actually makes perfect sense, as Modern Family is one of the most successful comedies on TV, and probably the single most if one combines critical and commercial appeal. I’m only surprised I haven’t seen more Modern Family take offs, to be honest.  How To Live With Your Parents (the relatively short name I’ll use from now on) oozes wanna be Modern Family, and it is not at all a coincidence that ABC has been airing it immediately before that show.

The basic backbones of Modern Family (besides the specific actors and writers and all that) are a quirky family with a sense of comedy that tries to strike a middle ground between more traditional family sitcoms (think Everybody Loves Raymond as the most recent of this model) and new-fangled comedy that young people like (e.g.The Office).  It’s all based around a family which is wacky and somewhat non-traditional but extremely functional, and the message is often more or less that the characters’ families drive them completely crazy but they love them dearly and, at the end of the day, they couldn’t imagine being with anyone else.  Structurally, it’s fairly light and cute, but attempts to be moving and heartwarming, with occasional narration (on Modern Family, mostly at the end of the episodes, but there’s talking to the camera which can be similar to narration).  Again, mixing the young and old, the family is not a classic American nuclear family, a la, say, Everybody Loves Raymond, or the trillions of family sitcoms before, but shares the sense of love and togetherness from those programs, with the wackiness but not absurdity or sense of despair from classic dysfunctional family sitcoms like Married with Children and Roseanne.

Basically, How To Live With Your Parents checks off every one of these boxes.  The main character and narrator is Polly, played by sitcom veteran Sarah Chalke (Scrubs, but also Roseanne, How I Met Your Mother, and Mad Love).  Polly divorced her husband recently and, not having any money or a job, moved back home with her mother and stepfather.  She brought along her young daughter Natalie.  Her mom (Elizabeth Perkins from Weeds) is a Character, a mother with absolutely no filter or sense of appropriateness who is way more comfortable talking about sex than her daughter is (a more and more common TV trope, a reverse of the traditional mother who is incredibly uncomfortable talking about sex (again, see Doris Roberts, Everybody Loves Raymond), often combined with a daughter who is relatively repressed and/or anal).  Her stepdad (Brad Garrett) is also a Character, albeit less so than her mother, and constantly bemoans the loss of one of his testicles from testicular cancer.  Added to this pool is her ex-husband who is a well-meaning dreamer/idiot, very much in the Andy from Parks and Recreation mode, who loves Polly’s family and tries to stay in her life however possible, no matter how much of a bad idea it might be.

She now works at a local coffee establishment and I can’t tell yet whether her co-workers there are characters or not.  Polly helpfully gives us the what’s what within this debut episode by using cutesy white text on screen to point out certain facets of her life she’s explaining, along with frequent flashbacks showing off the crazy in her family.

In the first episode she goes on her first date in ages, and, although terrified, asks her parents to babysit her kid for the night (she’s a classic super nervous mother, with a strict routine and specific rules, while her parents threaten to go all willy nilly Parental Control on her daughter).  Basically, both her date and her parents babysitting end up being semi-disasters, but lessons are learned, things work out in an incredibly heartwarming fashion, and it turns out she’s really grateful to have this zany but loving family even though they’re super insane and drive her completely bonkers.

Will I watch it again?  No.  Did I mention it’s actually not funny at all?  I should probably do that.  It wasn’t offensive; it was more modern than just about any CBS comedy but it was hardly breaking new ground either.  That said, it wasn’t actually funny at all.  The laugh lines and jokes just did not work.  I mean, I could see what the humor was supposed to be, and which lines where supposed to make me laugh but yeah, did not take.  I don’t watch Modern Family, so even if it worked, it’s not incredibly likely I would watch it, but it wasn’t a very difficult decision.  It’s much more heartwarming than it is funny.