Monday, April 15, 2013

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

How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)
Episode 2: How to Get Off the Couch
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.

Spoilers Ahoy!

That was an improvement in that the episode was actually funny and I could see myself liking this show.

This is not to imply that the series was anywhere close to being good. The voice-overs were less annoying this week but they remained gratuitous. The narration doesn't add anything to the plot nor does it create an understanding of who Polly is. What was more noticeable this week was the inconsistent use of the white words and arrows that occasionally pop up throughout the episode. They served a purpose in the pilot as they helped introduce the viewer to characters but they don't do anything this week. The writers try to be clever by having the words be a part of the joke but the execution made it seem like they were trying to explain the joke. What's worse is that they're very inconsistent as they only pop up like in two scenes. If they're supposed to be a part of the show then actually have their presence be more constant or just get rid of them. Right now the words feel like distractions as they stand out too much to really ever work. The final problem that really becomes apparent is how Julian doesn't really belong in the show. He's supposed to be the ex-husband that Polly comes to rely on but he always feels like he's being forced into the show. This is highlighted since the episode basically revolved around his relationship with Polly. It doesn't help that Polly and Julian's interactions are so off, their relationship so fake, that it never feels like they were married or even friends. A small criticism I kept lodging at Mike & Molly was how the waiter character, Samuel, had no real reason to exist or be on the show. There might be a logical reason for Julian to make occasional appearances but there is no reason why he sticks around every week. If the writers want him to stick around then they need to really work at developing his relationship with Polly rather than proclaiming co-dependency exists.

So if a lot of the problems in the pilot are present then why is this episode such a marked improvement? For one thing, the plot actually made sense. I could follow around and things largely made sense. I was a little confused on why Julian remains on the show but that's basically it. The main plot revolves around the generational conflict present in the show's premise. The parents are concerned when Polly seems to become dependent on Julian. Max decides to act by asking Julian to stay away from them for a while. Polly figures it out so she decides to fake the severity of a back injury in order to trick her parents into having to take care of everything for her. This is to teach them that she might be a little too dependent on her ex-husband but she needs him in order to fulfill all her responsibilities. They learn their lesson that they shouldn't meddle in the relationship between Julian and Polly and there's a big happy ending. It's not a perfect plot as Polly is still to inconsistent to work but it's at least a plot that I could follow along. When I don't have to scramble along trying to figure out what is happening or why, it makes for a more pleasant viewing experience. This proves that the series is capable of coherent plots which means that it can now concentrate on it's other more pressing issue: characterization. We might get a good show out of this yet.

A large problem with finding humor in pilots is that it's usually one or two people writing them. Once a pilot gets picked up to series, the producers are able to bring in a writing team. This might not seem consequential but it can make a huge difference in the product. When creating jokes, it's simply better to have a team because they can easily rule out the jokes that don't work while working together to make the ones that do even better. The pilot for this show wasn't funny as it didn't make me laugh once. Claudia Lonow might have had the idea for the show but she was clearly struggling with bringing the humor out. She now has a writing team to help her and they have largely succeeded. I wouldn't call this “hilarious” but at least I was at least consistently laughing. Which basically means that this episode was funny. A couple of big cave-eats here: this is actually the sixth episode produced. This might explain my confusion on Julian's relationship with Polly being so undefined as other episodes that were meant to air beforehand might have worked on it. It might also mean that the episodes that were made before this one could be rough and the network sent out this episode to prove to audiences that there is a funny show here. This means there might be some rough sailing ahead. I don't expect the first season of a comedy to be absolutely hilarious (that's second or third season) since they have to work out the kinks but this is a pretty good place for the first season to be at.

If you're interested in checking out this show and missed the pilot, this is the episode I would start out with. It's funny and the plot makes a lot more sense rather than a jumbled mess. There are still major issues with the show: inconsistent and flat characters, annoying voice-overs, distracting words, and Julian feels forced into the series. The good news is that these are all problems that can be ironed out as time goes on and only one of them is really critical to the series foundation. If the writers are able to work on the characters then How to Live with Your Parents might very be the comedy I was expecting all along.

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