How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)
Episode 5: How to Run the Show
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.
Who has the real power in a household? The parents are supposed to be in charge but many people will argue that their authority has waned over the last few generations. How to Live with Your Parents decides to grapple this perspective when Polly finds herself trying to control Natalie but without being able to say 'no' to her. There might be a reason for doing this when she remembers back to her own childhood. Her mom and step-dad were so per-occupied with themselves that they expected her to take New York City public transportation by herself. They didn't put the needs of their child first nor did they seem all too concerned about her safety. There are some viewers out there who probably saw that and decided that Elaine and Max were terrible parents who deserved to have their daughter taken away by Child's Services but it was a different time period. It might be an out-of-date parenting style but it did have one big advantage. There's a moment in the episode where the nurse she's dating notes that his kids can't even take the kiddy train by themselves while at their age Polly knew the subway like the back of her hand. Max and Elaine's selfishness forced Polly to become independent while Polly's parenting style might be making Natalie too dependent for her own good. Forcing her daughter to remain dependent on her might be what's causing Natalie to rebel or perhaps it's calling attention to the lack of discipline in the household. The two parenting styles are being contrasted but they both lacked discipline. Max and Elaine had no structure in their parenting style forcing Polly to adapt and become responsible for taking care of herself. Natalie might have a more attentive parent but her inability to reject her child's whims removes any structure that might exist. The lesson that Polly and her parents learned is that it's best to go in the middle-ground on how much freedom to allocate to the child which should hopefully come with a sense of discipline and structure. It's not a bad idea for the show to explore and, while the writers may not have touched upon the root of the problem with their parenting styles, the episode did a good job with it.
The main plot of the episode has to do with Polly. She can't go on a date with the nurse she's currently dating because her daughter is taking too much time of her life. As she notes, it takes hours just to get Natalie into the car. Her parents decide to step up to the plate and agree to take care of Natalie. This selfless action quickly gives into what they really want to do. They decide they're going to take Natalie with them to a cheese-and-wine festival. Once they get there, Natalie is bored and complains that she wants to leave. She's acting like a child but she quickly notices a goat. Max and Elaine realize they can just tie a balloon to her wrist so that they can keep an eye on her. The problem? Max picks a balloon that a whole cancer group is using. They quickly lose Natalie. They go on a desperate search especially after Polly arrives to the event with her date. Just when they give up, Natalie finds them because she's thirsty. The grandparents are happy but they don't want Polly to know they lost her daughter so they bribe Natalie to stay quiet. A bribe that fails when Polly catches them buying a goat for Natalie. She forgives them because she knew they didn't mean to lose Natalie but she remains annoyed with them for buying a nocturnal animal. She does admit that she indulges Natalie's desires too much but she's taken the right steps. When Natalie complains she doesn't want to go home, Polly leaves her daughter with Julian to help clean up the side of the road. On it's own, this would have been a pretty sit-commy plot but it's helped by the other half of the plot.
Polly's date with the nurse quickly goes a different direction because he's stuck with his two sons. This is after she accidentally exposed herself to all three of them. It's kind of surprising how funny the boy's reactions to seeing her in lingerie was. The two decide to try and make the date work even as they try to make the two boys happy by going to fast food. When they're eating in the car and the nurse has little control over his sons, Polly starts to realize the weaknesses in her parenting style. It isn't until they're forced to eat the burgers in the kiddie train while being hit by plastic hammers that the two have had enough. They take a stand against letting their kids control their lives. When the two boys try to protest, Polly leaves them with her ex-husband to help him clean up the highway he adopted. The nurse and Polly end up going to the wine-and-cheese festival where they have a good time as adults. This half of the plot is very bare-bones. It has a lot of great moments but it functions well because of what Max and Elaine are up to. The two sides learn the problems with their parenting styles and agree on the middle. It's a little clean and there's a feeling this would only happen on television but I still think they work well to compliment each other. If they didn't have the same theme then the plots would have felt even more sit-commish, pointless, and there wouldn't have been the sense of focus that tonight had. It's yet another episode that proves me right that this is a show that's best when it's about having to raise Natalie or any kids for that matter.
How to Run the Show is a pretty basic episode of television. The two plots are pretty simple and there aren't any twists that lead to an outcome I wasn't expecting. It's not reinveting the wheel but it doesn't need to. What it does instead is show that the writers are on the right track. They're concentrating more on what's working: stories about parenting. They are also creating plots that feel organic and together rather than separate to explore one single theme. It's not the best episode as there were many moments where the comedy felt forced or the interactions could have used some work. The white arrows and words still need to be phased out but at least the voice-over narration stopped sticking out like a sore thumb. The theme was nice but it missed a key component in what both parenting styles lack which made the resolution underwhelm. Overall, it's a pretty good episode in what is turning out to be a pretty fun show to watch. It might not earn any accolades but it's starting to earn a place on the Wednesday night comedy block. How to Run a Show is a step in the right direction towards creating a solid and consistent comedy.