Tag Archives: The Millers

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.

Fall 2013 Previews and Predictions: CBS

11 Sep


(In order to meld the spirit of futile sports predictions with the high stakes world of the who-will-be-cancelled-first fall television season, I’ve set up a very simple system of predictions for how long new shows will last.  Each day, I’ll (I’m aware I switched between we and I) lay out a network’s new shows scheduled to debut in the fall (reality shows not included – I’m already going to fail miserably on scripted shows, I don’t need to tackle a whole other animal) with my prediction of which of three categories it will fall into.

These categories are:

1.  Renewal – show gets renewed

2.  13+ – the show gets thirteen or more episodes, but not renewed

3.  12- – the show is cancelled before 13)

The most watched network is up next.  CBS is looking to churn out some more winners and keep its reign going.  Which will be hits and which will be misses?  I’ll take some guesses at what people who like things that I hate will watch.

Mom – 9/23

Maybe better than Dads

Chuck Lorre, the genius behind CBS megahits Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory tries to strike gold again for the eye with this sitcom starring talented-but-could-never-find-the-right-project Anna Faris and former The West Wing press secretary Allison Janney.  Faris plays a single mother battling alcoholism who moves in with her also recovering alcoholic mom in California.  It’s multi-camera, it’s got a laugh track along with everything that anyone who loves either of those other CBS shows will probably love for some reason. Breaking Bad’s Badger, Matt Jones, is in the cast, and I already feel like I will think he’s the best part of the first episode.

Prediction: Renewal – Faris should have had a TV show years ago, and as terrible as it’s probably going to be, it’s gotten a big promotional push and has the Lorre touch.

Hostages – 9/23


TV superstar Dylan McDermott plays an FBI agent who kidnaps the family of a doctor, played by Toni Collette, to force her to assassinate the president when she does surgery on him later that week.  Hostages carries the action bona fides of executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer.  It looks intense and I have absolutely no idea how they’ll make a second season, unless they anticlimactically stretch everything out for way too long.  It might be better than a typical CBS show, which is damning it with faint praise, but still, at least it’s not a procedural, which is a huge step for CBS.

Prediction: Renewal – if I made longer term predictions I’d guess this will go two seasons, like Smith, drawing some initial viewers and gradually fading away as the buzz falls away. Just put me down for renewal though, for now.

The Crazy Ones – 9/26

Robin Williams is The Crazy Ones

Robin Williams is back on TV, being Robin Williams-y to the extreme.  He plays the wacky father to Sarah Michelle Gellar’s sensible daughter, and the two are partners at an advertising agency that bears their names.  Mad Men this is not.  It’s hard to remember a time when Williams was funny, or maybe I only found him funny because I was younger and my tastes have changed.  Either way, if Williams could play his far superior creepy One Hour Photo dramatic self, a Williams-led TV show could be fun, but as he won’t, it most certainly will not be.

Prediction: 13+ – Williams is still a big name, even though so much time has passed since his movies made any money, or even since he headlined movies. Big enough for a full season pick up, but not a renewal, ratings will disappoint, but CBS will play the season through out of hope.

We Are Men – 9/30

They Are Men

TV vets Kal Penn, Tony Shalhoub, and Jerry O’Connell play veteran singles who show relative TV newcomer Chris Smith the ropes when his fiancé dumps him at the alter and he moves into a singles-friendly rental complex.  It may be another men-learning-how-to-be-men show, which we seem to get two or three of every year, but whether it is or isn’t, it looks terrible. Did Kal Penn really leave the Obama administration for this? And Tony Shalhoub, I’m not proud of you either.

Prediction: 12- As always, some people will watch it because older peoples’ TVs only get CBS, but the standards are also higher (ratings-wise, not quality-wise) and this show will not meet them.  CBS shows do fail.  Who remembers last year’s Partners?

The Millers – 10/3

We're the Millers - the TV adaptation

I believe I noted in an earlier post that Will Arnett, if The Millers fails  (which I, spoiler alert, believe it will) will have the unenviable achievement of having starred in failed sitcoms on three of the four major networks (Running Wilde on Fox and Up All Night on NBC).  Networks see him as a leading man rather than the wonderful wacky side character he played in his breakout performance in Arrested Development ,but he hasn’t delivered yet.  Arnett plays a recently divorced man whose world is turned upside down when his dad decides to leave his mom, ending a four decade marriage. This show, which, and I know this sounds like a refrain on this CBS page, but it’s still true, looks terrible, It also has more wasted talent than Arnett, with Emmy winner Margo Martindale, Beau Bridges, Curb Your Enthusiasm funnyman JB Smoove and Glee’s Jayma Mays.

Prediction: 12- Arnett’s presence would almost be enough for me to pick cancellation in and of itself (Yes, I know Up All Night technically went two seasons, but that’s a fluke at best) but the show selling itself in the trailer on a Martindale fart joke, well, that sealed the deal.

Snap Judgments: CBS Upfronts

15 May

We’re ranking the shows at each of the upfronts here.  CBS is next, check here for NBC and a fuller intro.  Watching a new TV show is like meeting a new person.  You usually know within the first minute whether you’re going to like them or not.  Maybe 20% of the time, they deserve a second look, or you just get a misleadingly awful first impression, but that’s the exception.  These were actually all fairly close to one another, and I doubt I’ll be watching a second episode of any of them, but so it goes.

6.  The Crazy Ones

Star power is left and right in The Crazy Ones with Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar starring as father/daughter advertising executives in this comedy from David E. Kelley.  Mad Man this is not.  It’s really hard for Robin Williams not to be a caricature of himself (at least without going dark, a la One Hour Photo), and he doesn’t really break out of it here.  If you like Robin Williams, you’ll probably love it.  If you don’t think Robin Williams has been particularly funny since at least the Mrs. Doubtfire/Aladdin early ’90s twosome (again giving leeway for his surprisingly awesome dramatic takes), well, you pretty much know what you’re in for here.  Also, Kelly Clarkson’s in the pilot, though that’s neither here nor there I suppose.  A lot of interviewing people in the trailer talking about how funny and what a legend Robin Williams is.  Williams is already on my nerves within 3 minutes.

5.  We Are Men

I’m not going to lie.  I already have a negative opinion of this before I even started based on the title.  It’s about four divorced dudes who live at a kind of singles apartment complex together, navigating the post-divorce waters.  I would have guessed it was airing on TBS as kind of a ten years later to Men at Work if it wasn’t already on CBS.  They all help each score with the ladies, while being men together and bromancing it up.  The recurring joke in the trailer is about how none of them know any of the other members of the cast and all think they’re the star.  Hilarious.  I forgot, you can’t necessarily tell that’s sarcasm in writing.  They are indeed men.

4.  Mom

Laugh track alert!  It’s a Chuck Lorre special starring Anna Faris and Alison Janney as daughter-mother recovering alcoholics. The two of them try to keep it together for the benefit of Faris’ teen daughter and younger son.  Badger from Breaking Bad shows up for a second, which is cool and Nate Corddry and French Stewart play Faris’ coworkers at a high end restaurant.  I suppose it looks better than some other Chuck Lorre comedies (e.g. Two and a Half Men), though that’s an extremely relative statement.  This is a CBS overview, so it’s not like I’m likely to actually enjoy any of these shows.  Some of these cast members have merit and that’s more or less as far as I’m willing to go.

3.  Intelligence

Josh Holloway (aka Sawyer from Lost) is a superhero CIA agent who enhances his awesome fighting and stealth skills with a microchip implanted in him, which allows to control all sorts of electronic shit.  He can scan things and do research and open doors and so forth.  Marg Helgenberger (CSI) who appears in the show as some sort of higher ranking agent describes it as James Bond meets Frankenstein meets Mission Impossible. Certainly no examples of hyperbole here. It’s like Person of Interest, except endorsed by the government and with superpowers.  Dramas have an inherent ranking advantage here, as even mediocre dramas are unlikely, on average, to be as bad as awful comedies.

2.  The Millers

Kids cursing is always a high brow way to start off a trailer. Will Arnett gets yet another comedy pilot (Running Wilde, Up All Night) with an absolutely loaded cast (Note:  Arnett has gotten pilots from Fox, NBC, and now CBS – he’s an ABC pilot away from all four networks).  Margo Martindale and Beau Bridges are Ma and Pa, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia Waitress Mary Elizabeth Ellis is his sis (though some research tells me she’s no longer in the cast), and  JB Smoove is his coworker (cameraman, Arnett is a reporter).  The laugh track is again out in full force.  I think the laughs were louder than the words in the most dramatic scene from the trailer when, inspired by Arnett’s recent divorce, Bridges leaves Martindale, and talks about masterbating and their lack of sex, disgusting their son.  Dysfunctional families who really love each other and all that.  The cast is good but the show probably won’t be.  Still, good enough for second here.

1.  Hostages

There is absolutely no fucking around with the CBS drama pilots this year. Both mention the president within 30 seconds. In Hostages, top surgeon Toni Collette is supposed to operate on the president, until she’s and her family are taken hostage by Dylan McDermott.  McDermott demands that she kill the president during the surgery or her family (including husband Tate Donovan) will all be killed.  I have no idea what the time span is for the show; whether one season leads up to the surgery, or far afterwards, and where the show goes for multiple seasons if it gets there, but I at least respect the super high concept premise.  I find it doubtful it will actually be good, but at least it’s trying though, and that’s something.  The top position is a very relative term in a CBS upfronts ranking, but someone has to take it.