Fall 2013 Review: The Millers

14 Oct

Three of The Millers

The Millers stars Will Arnett as Nathan Miller, a successful local newsman ( oddly, one of two new Thursday night comedies where the main character plays a local newsman, along with The Michael J. Fox Show) who was recently divorced but has been holding back that information from his overbearing parents.  He instead confides in his sister, Debbie, played by Glee’s Jayma Mays, and her husband, Adam, played by Nelson Franklin. His parents, Tom, played by Beau Bridges, and Carol, played by Margo Martindale, show up at his place after his father accidentally floods the basement of their home. Will is forced to finally spill the beans about his divorce, and in response his father all of a sudden decides he wants a divorce also, ending his parents four decade long marriage. Tom goes to stay with Debbie while Carol stays with Nathan. Curb Your Enthusiasm’s JB Smoove plays Nathan’s coworkers and friend Ray. Thus, the setup for The Millers.

Broad comedy, which was once more descriptive, has become such a pejorative term, trotted out in a negative fashion to describe Farrelly Brothers shtick and the like. In both the descripve and possibly unfair pejoriative usage, The Millers is more or less a broad comedy.  The jokes are often physical and almost always stupid. Respect for their viewers’ intelligence was not something the creators of The Millers had in mind. The jokes are incredibly obvious and there’s a laugh track which lets you know when to chuckle if you somehow weren’t able to figure out from the blatant big laugh lines.

Maybe the’s is a better term for The Millers; the onion AVClub called it fart-com. There were not one but two fart jokes in the episode, and the worse part about those is that they may have actually been the best part of the episode.  Hey, farts can be funny, which is already more than you can say about anything else in the episode.

On top of the stifling laugh track, the show is chock-full of incredibly stale stereotypes and character tropes.  The dad, Tom, can’t figure out how to use technology; he continues to put metal in the microwave and he can’t understand how to use the television remotes.  Television remotes can be complicated, it’s certainly true, but if the writers really thought they had the first inkling to make an old-guy-can’t-figure-out-television-remotes joke, I’m afraid they’re sorely mistaken.  Carol, the mom, is an overbearing nag who pushes advice nobody wants and constantly overshares inappropriate information. Inappropriate parents are hilarious! Ray and Nathan have an unoriginal time-to-hit-up-the-dating –scene. There’s absolutely no care put into writing these jokes. When Tom can’t figure out how to use the remotes, for example, that’s the joke. There’s no even attempt at clever wordplay or something different to keep an old joke even slightly fresh or new.

Eventually, the episode finally gets to its dramatic conclusion. Nathan’s holding a party at which he thinks he’s found a woman willing to sleep with him while his mother is doing everything in her power to prevent that, unintentionally. Nathan, seeing how broken up his mother is, decides to abandon all hope of getting laid to cheer up his sullen mother with a creepy dance rendition of Dirty Dancing. What a sweet kid. It’s supposed to be heartwarming except all of these people both feel like not only classic types but terrible versions of those types. I’m not cheering for anyone and the scene is awkward without being funny. The characters have all gotten on my nerves in just twenty two minutes.

Everything in this show feels like it’s been done a thousand times before. It’s crass, it’s unfunny; I’m not sure who watching this thought this was good. I know I’m constantly surprised but I’d like to find someone who walked out of a test screening of The Millers and thought this was funny. Honestly, I’d like to know if the executives who put this show on the air actually think it’s funny or just are cynically judging the sense of humor of the American people, which to be fair, they may not be wrong about. Good shows I laugh at, mediocre sitcoms I stare at unmovingly, and really bad shows I cringe at. The Millers has certainly earned itself a place in that lowest category. The jokes are not only not funny, they’re dumb and insulting. This show wastes a number of talented actors, and I hope it gets cancelled quickly so that those actors can put their abilities to something of higher quality.

Will I watch it again? No. It’s an instant contender for worst new show of the year, up there in the Dads category. The only think it has going over Dads is the lack of insulting racial stereotyping. It’s so unfortunately that so many talented actors are wasted on this monstrosity.

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