How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)
Episode 1: Pilot
By: Carlos Uribe
How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) is a show about a single mother who moves in with her parents right after a divorce. I will be covering this show weekly.
This was one of the shows I've been looking forward to all season. The cast is spectacular and the trailer released at the upfront showed promise. This show has Sarah Chalke, Elizabeth Perkins, and Brad Garrett. The daughter, Rachel Eggleston, seemed solid in the marketing. The logo and trailer promised a series that resembled a quirky and comedy independent movie. I could get down with that. The premise behind it promises a family comedy but it's okay because those have been proven to work. The idea to create conflict between two generations and their views on parenting holds a lot of comic potential. Which is probably why I'm so disappointed in the final product. It might be that I simply had set a bar very high for this pilot to meet but I didn't laugh once. It might be that the cast implies that there should be stronger material but it was often underwhelming. There is no way to get around this: the pilot is a big mess that doesn't work. I don't think I've been this disappointed in a comedy since the pilot for Up All Night. I don't know-I guess I shouldn't be surprised. A pilot can often be very rough and the behind-the-scenes talent is solid but not spectacular. I shouldn't expecting the creator of Accidentally on Purpose to give me the next Modern Family. Now I'll keep watching because there's always a chance of improvement. The Neighbors started out very weak but it became one of the most consistent comedies on television. I wouldn't write off How to Live with Your Parents but it's going to have a long road before it can even fit “remotely funny”-and that's pretty concerning when American audiences are very unforgiving.
The most immediate problem I have with the pilot is the voice-over. I think I noticed it as soon as Polly started talking introducing her step-father. She makes a comment that he likes to exercise without traditional workout clothes. It's a bit random but it's to set up a joke. We cut to a show of him running in regular clothes. She comments in the voice-over that he looks like he's running away from a crime. The next thing you see it's a police car behind him turning on the siren. Get the joke that was just telegraphed to you? I was about ready to give up on the show at that moment. If I wasn't reviewing this show, I would have. The voice-over continues but it never adds anything. It just explains things and then tries to wrap up the ending with a lot of unearned sweetness. The voice-over isn't the only problem on this show. It's not funny so that's a major problem. All of the jokes were lame, have been done to death before, or simply didn't work. Now I'm not the kind of person where a comedy has to try hard to make me laugh. I'm very easy. I've sat through stupid and terrible sit-coms because they make me laugh. I mean, I've been watching Rules of Engagement on Netflix. It's a terrible show and David Spade is annoying but the jokes land on a surprising frequency. If you fail to make me even chuckle then you know that something is going terribly wrong. The voice-over needs to go but the so-called comedy needs to be worked on immediately.
The most confusing aspect of the pilot is that it acted like it wasn't. Look, I expect a pilot to have a lot of exposition but I need it to understand what I'm watching. It all started decently when Polly arrives at her parent's home. She explains that she's moving back in because she's had it with her irresponsible ex-husband. We don't really get to see her parent's reaction but we cut to six months later. That's really the only introduction you get to the series. Everything else is too confusing too work. All of a sudden Polly has a job at a coffeehouse and she has some kind of relationship with her boss and co-worker. Only none of it makes sense and everything Polly does in this scene seems to contradict traits established in other episodes. I'm sorry but I don't buy the Polly that likes to turn on the blender when her boss is talking is the same one as the one giving her parents lectures about how her daughter needs to come first. Confusing even more is that she's using the blender to ignore her boss when he's telling her that a hot guy wants to ask her out. This seems to imply their friends but that means Polly wouldn't be so rude. Like, what is going on? And then she goes on a date with the guy but it really serves no purpose to follow it because the real conflict is whether her parents can babysit. Her parents can but they have different views on parenting that complicates things only this never really becomes a conflict that the pilot explores. If anything, the pilot worked too hard to be conflict-adverse. It doesn't help that the show doesn't explain why Max is her step-father or setting up relationships. See, this would mean actually being a pilot when this episode was more interested in acting like it belonged late in the first season or beyond. It acted like it had established the characters and the relationships, hoping that using words and arrows would excuse actually fleshing out who they are and what they mean to Polly. Overall-in trying to avoid falling into pilot pitfalls we get something far, far worse-a confusing mess where nothing worked.
The plot is confusing, the “comedy” is non-existent, and voice-over might be terrible but what about the characters? Polly is as inconsistent as possible. One moment she's willing to have fun, the next she's freaking out about the idea of fun. She likes to criticize her parents but none of them land because we're trying to get to know them. I don't feel like I've gotten to know the protagonist or even her a firm idea of who she could possibly be. I think a major problem is she's whoever the show needs her to be in that moment. She could be arguing for responsibility to provide the conflict between the next two generations then urging her date to mix alcohol and a drug. I'm sorry, is she supposed to be the responsible one? Then have her actually be responsible! It honestly felt like the conflict between her mom and dad was being forced because that's the hook behind the show (uptight parent vs. loose grandparents) but it's not going to work if she's really loose herself. I wish I could say this show still has promise but when the protagonist is going all over the place? I see a lot of red flags that this show will be short-lived because it's impossible to connect with the main character. It wouldn't even matter if none of the other problems existed because Polly needs a lot work before she can even be called a character.
The side characters are nothing to write home about. Polly's mother is Elaine. Elaine's character trait is that she's uncensored and that's it. At least that's something. Max is Polly's step-father. I'm not entirely sure what her unique relationship to him is. He basically acts as a comedic sidekick to Elaine rather than stand on his own. Natalie is the daughter and her job is to be cute. She succeeds. Julian is the ex-husband who hangs out because he wants to be there for his family. His presence really wasn't necessary nor was his character really established beyond an irresponsible figure trying to become more responsible. The people who work with Polly, her date, and everyone else on this show is undeveloped and their connection with Polly forced. Overall, there's not a single character whose fleshed out. Even in bad comedy pilots, I tend to find one character I can connect with or that I could see has potential. I don't see a single character in this one.
I'm going to say it: How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) is the worst comedy pilot I've seen. The creator fails to properly utilize the voice-over, the plot is confusing, the “jokes” fail on every level, and the characters and their relationships are never established. The pilot tried to avoid being bogged down by exposition and in turn it suffered. Look-if you create a show, don't be scared to fall down pilot pit-falls. They exist because they're necessary at times. I'm going to stick with the show because I chose every show I'm going to cover over the summer...but I wouldn't be surprised if I drop this.