Monday, May 20, 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 7: How to Stand On Your Own Two Feet
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!

I've noted how this show works best when Natalie is somehow the center of the plot even if she's not actually present. This certainly remains true but this is the first episode where the plots worked without having her in the middle. It's not dealing with the most original plots. Polly is annoyed because her parents don't respect her as a resident. When her co-workers suggest this may be because she doesn't pay rent, Polly decides that she's going to start paying for her own way. It's complicated because she doesn't actually have the resources to do this. She finds out that her bank account keeps going up because her parents give her money. She had thought she was just good with money but her parents were merely ensuring that she has some money to spend. Polly is disappointed when she finds this out but she swears to turn things around. She wants to be financially independent and she doesn't want to freeload at her parent's house. Her solution is to get a second job but this quickly backfires. She's already a pretty bad employee at the grocery store she works at so this is basically a spell for disaster. She accepts a job at her father's comedy club. I'm going to admit that while I remember Max talking about a comedy club he was building in the Academy Awards episode, this is the first time where it really clicked that's what his occupation was. At least we're starting to find out more about their lives as his job is basically clarified to the audience. Anyways, Polly gets a job at the club but she's a terrible waitress. She struggles to carry people their orders. She's transferred over from waitress to other fields but she keeps bombing at all of them. She gets stuck behind the bar but she finds out that the people at the club resent her. They know that the only reason she has the job is because her step-father owns the comedy club. She didn't get the job because she earned it and her poor performance isn't going to get her fired. Max is too proud of her determination to be able to stand on her own two feet that he doesn't mind that she's terrible at both her jobs. Polly eventually quits even though this is difficult for her but she does get some money by posing for a nude artist. She doesn't start to pay rent because she decides to finish college. Which confused me because I was under the impression she had already graduated. It would be nice if the character backgrounds were well-established by this point.

I'll admit it's not the most original plot in the world. It's been done many times by numerous shows. It's not like it even offers a fresh perspective. This is not going to go down as textbook as revolutionary but that's okay. The plot offered enough energy and dedication to make it work. It was consistently funny and it managed to find a heart for it as well. Polly's quest for financial independence and respect in her household is relatable and makes sense with the character. He fear of disappointing her father provides good conflict while the at the same time helping to ground her decision to fake a mental breakdown. In other words, it works because the series is able to adapt the plot to it's characters. It works because it's able to apply a heart to it-something that the writers have so far only been able to apply to the Natalie-centric plots. If this episode proved anything it's that the writers are able to craft a good episode without need Natalie to make it work right. It's a sign that the writers are figuring out what's working and what's not while finding the heart of the characters. This plot might have been basic but it managed to at least increase the expectations of what this show could have done if it had been given a chance to come back for a second season. Yes there were still problems-the fact that I'm learning basic info about the characters and some of the jokes fell flat. The co-workers seem superflous in the long-run because they ultimately don't do anything other than provide Polly the inspiration to make it on her own two feet. Her decision to go back to college seems to come out of nowhere as they was nothing to indicate that she was even thinking about this. Those are issues that exist but there the kind of problems that future episodes would be able to eliminate. They could remove redundant elements and develop the narrative more tightly.

The sub-plot of the episode has to do with Julian and Elaine. It doesn't work as well largely because Julian's character remains so undefined. He largely seems to be stuck as “oddball”. His dream job is to open a zombie survivor fantasy camp but he doesn't have the salary to every do it. Elaine convinces him to sublet his apartment in order to start saving up money. Julian takes this advice but creates conflict when he moves into Natalie's playhouse. He's forced to move out by Max but Elaine has him sleep at Max's office. This frustrates Max but he decides to hire Julian on the condition that he find a new place to live. It's an okay plot but it doesn't have the same heart. It needs to be more consistent with Julian's quirks while developing him as an actual human being if the series wants us to root for his insane dream. I'll admit that end tag where Julian makes a fake promotional video with Polly and the rest of the cast was funny for a while but it got overplayed by the end. Overall: this is a show that works when it's able to convey a heart and that involves having to have actual human beings to ground the plots.

How to Stand On Your Own Two Feet is a solid episode of How to Live With Your Parents. The main plot suffers many problems but it manages to work through them because it has a lot of heart. It's gotten to be more consistently funny because the characters are starting to feel more real. Julian's plot doesn't work as well because he has yet to be fleshed out in order to have his wacky dreams drive a narrative. Two Feet is a step in the right direction and finally starts to prove that the series doesn't need Natalie in the center to be good.

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