How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)
Episode 3: How to Live with the Academy Awards Party
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 wonder if the writers expected this show to air earlier than it did. Were they expecting a January or February premiere in order to justify an Academy Awards episode? Was this meant to air alongside the Middle's own Oscar episode? Or did the network ask for a Middle Oscar episode because they decided to premiere the series later than they were expecting and they wanted some synergy? I wish I knew the story behind this episode because I have no doubt it would be better than the actual product. The pilot began uneven as it refused to act as a pilot. It didn't set up a lot and it merely ended up confusing me. It's a good thing the network aired the second episode as it allowed me to see what a good version of this show would be like. I can't wait to get back to that level of quality because this episode simply sucked. It made me laugh a few times but it really wasn't funny. The pilot's refusal to properly set things up hurt the series once again as I was a bit confused at some of the background seemingly established in this episode. The whole Academy Awards plot felt out of whack as it aired months after the event and it felt like the network was hoping to use the new show for some shameless free promotion. Well free in the sense that they were already spending money making the episode. There were three plots this week but none of them really landed. It wasn't all bad as I could at least finally see what Julian might be doing on the show. His presence is still unnecessary but I could see the argument for why he's included. Overall, this was a weak episode of How to Live with Your Parents that reminds any viewer that it's still figuring itself out.
The episode is built around the idea that it takes place at an Academy Award parties. Only Elaine and Max actually think the Academy Awards is a national party. They have a whole bunch of costumes and they talk about their favorite parts. The only thing the episode was missing was a reminder that the Oscars are on the network. The free commercial truly would have made more sense when the Academy Awards were actually going to air because then it would have just felt like shameless advertising. Since it airs months after, it becomes plain pathetic. Two of the three plots take place at this party. The first has to do with giving Polly a love interest for the week. The second has to do with Elaine and Max trying to be on the same side. The third plot that takes place separate from the party is with Julian gaining confidence as a father. The ones that take place in the party are weak. The jokes are uninspired and they bring their own set of problems. The final plot is surprisingly the strongest as it has a cute kid while trying to justify the presence of a character to me. I wonder if it says something that the plot most removed from the central element of the party (the Academy Awards) is the only one that shows any actual heart. If it does I would imagine that this show doesn't have the skill to properly pull off such a commercial stunt without sacrificing it's creative edge. It's possible that this episode might have worked better if it was February. The network might like the idea of the Academy Awards day being an actual holiday but it isn't. Still removing it from the proper time frame did make the series feel dated so it definably hurt the episode.
The Julian plot worked well for three reasons. The first has to do because Rachel Eggelston gets to be cute. It's fun to see her act silly and she has a natural presence on camera. I'm not saying she's a Maggie Jones (from Ben and Kate) but she's not a terrible child actress. I haven't had that much time to really notice since she's mostly been in the background. Even when the plot revolves around her, it's usually how her presence affects the adults around her. In the pilot, it was Elaine and Max weren't able to control what they said in front of her. In the second episode it was about how the two grandparents didn't want to sacrifice their lifestyles to take care of her demands. It's very much the same this episode as Natalie's presence is largely as a plot device to allow Julian to confront his issues at being a father. Since she's more crucial to this plot's heart, she does get to have more screen time. The second reason is because it has some actual heart. Julian trying to be a father resonates because of those scenes with her. Jon Dore sells that he's a father whose trying to be there for his daughter. The final reason is because it justifies his presence somewhat. The first two episodes had basically said that he's having a hard time adjusting to his divorced life that he's having difficulty moving on. This was fine except his relationship with Polly felt so forced that it made him an unwelcome presence. This changes when the series pairs him with Natalie. He does come across as a father whose trying to be there. When he tells Polly he's trying to be an independent father who can take care of his daughter, you believe him. If the show wants him to stick around then build around how the two are dependent on each other to parent Natalie rather than they depend on each other for everything. It actually resonates and maybe can build the ground to expand from just Natalie to everything.
The Polly plot just took me out of the episode because it confused me. It's not the actual plot that was the problem but how it was set up. It turns out that Polly and her current employer actually went to college together. I'm sorry, what? It's this kind of key background information that the pilot should have conveyed but instead it's forced into this episode. From the pilot, I never got the impression she knew him before she got the job so it came as a surprise when I found out they were old college friends. Gah. The actual plot is pretty boilerplate and predictable. Polly likes hot guy from her college class. The two lie to impress the other. Hot guy pretends to be a doctor when he's really a nurse while Polly pretends to be an important activist. The two keep up their ruse for as long as possible but the truth comes out. They sleep together and the plot basically ends. It's possible we never see his hot guy again but he might be a recurring love interest. I honestly have no idea with this show-and that's not a good thing. It's one thing to surprise me with the plot but it's another when I'm not even sure what's happening as it's going on.
The final plot has to do with Elaine and Max. The two are happy to host the Academy Party but they have a whole separate plot as well. Elaine's brother comes to visit and Max doesn't like that because he always feels like Elaine takes her brother's side over his. It doesn't help that Elaine's brother doesn't think that Max can properly take care of his sister. In the end, Elaine takes Max's side as she realizes that this matters to him. It's basically a typical plot but I have two complaints. The first is we're barely getting to know the characters we've been introduced to. Hot Scott is one thing but do we really need to know Elaine's brother at this point? This could have been better saved for a second season episode once the characters have been more firmly established. Introducing the family of main characters this early in the game feels like too much because we don't know them that well. The second is there's a flashback when Elaine and Max are moving together into the second apartment and the brother is worried about the violence. Polly is shown to be around 7 at this point. This all calls into question just what happened to Polly's dad. See, that's the problem with bringing family this early in the point of the series: we not only don't know the characters enough but it reminds the viewer that we don't really know anything about their past.
The Academy Awards can be a fun time but this episode is basically shameless promotion of an event that already passed. The Julian plot contains some heart and makes understand Julian's potential role in the show as well as appreciate Rachel Eggelston's cuteness. The other two plots were disaster as they reminded us how poorly we've been introduced into this universe. If the second episode showed how this show looks like when it's good, this third episode is a disappointing reminder that it still needs to get there first.