How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)
Episode 10: How to Have a Play Date
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.
How to Have a Play Date is an episode that covers a parental fear that their child is not fitting in with the other children. Polly is scared that Natalie doesn't have any friends so she befriends a group of moms in an effort to get Natalie to bond with children her own age. The added layer of why she feels compelled to do this is because she didn't have that many friends growing up. The series has already explored how her parents refused to sacrifice anything for her. They always put themselves first which led to Polly's independence and self-confidence issues. Now the writers talk about how she did spend a lot of time with them but she was busy doing activities that interested them. This involved doing activities like improv theater rather than doing hobbies that other kids could relate to. This made her an outcast amongst her generation as she found it difficult to relate to them. They saw her as a loser, bullied her, and refused to give her a chance. Polly never had any friends so she's projecting her fear into her daughter. Will Natalie have no friends? This pushes Polly towards having Natalie be included in the mom group's play dates and what leads to her accepting an invitation to host a play date session. There's a lot of good comedy here as there's some inevitable chaos but the play date ends up doing well. Natalie is now in position to be able to make friends which means that Polly's worst fears about her daughter won't be met. It's a bit predictable but it all plays well because it has a strong heart and because Polly's desires for her daughter are properly conveyed to the audience. We want this play date to go well for her because we want Natalie to have friends. We understand why Polly has this fear because of her past. It's because Polly's motivations are strong that this plot is able to entertain even as it covers previously covered material.
This wouldn't be How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) if there wasn't an adult relationship in the core of the main plot. It might have been about Polly's desire for her daughter to have friends because she didn't have any but the real heart was her relationship with her mom. It's a constant complaint from Polly that her parents ruined her life. The reason she's living at home, doesn't have the education to get a decent-paying job, and hasn't figure life out yet is because her parents didn't properly do their roles. These complaints constantly come up and they start to make Elaine feel guilty. She might have been a bad mother, a feat she expresses through her notebook. She attempts to make up for it by trying to salvage Polly's play date when she knows her craft idea isn't going to go over well. She's right about the craft being a bad idea because it turns out that the core of Polly's project, caterpillars, are seen as disgusting by little girls. Elaine is able to save the day with some improv and her daughter is forced to admit that she doesn't think badly about her parents. She's merely lashing out to them because she's afraid on whether she's a good mother or not. Elaine doesn't comfort her by telling her that she's a good mother or that she won't screw up but rather by lifting the burden of being a good mother out. She basically admits that Polly is going to screw up all the time but Natalie is going to grow up into a great adult regardless. Now this isn't a lesson that is going to be remembered for long but it's nice that this show has some strong relationship conflicts that can give the heart to every predictable plot.
The sub-plot is pretty forgettable. There's a mountain lion but Max doesn't believe on is there. Julian overreacts to the situation as he lays out traps and say things like “kill zones”. Max hears a noise that leads him to think it might be a mountain lion. This leads to the two of them having to chase down a raccoon (or possum) through the play date. Max comes to the conclusion that was the noise he hears and that there's no mountain later. The cold tag has Max in the bathtub with Elaine. The two are kissing, he's pretending to be a mountain lion, and there's a pan over to reveal that there is indeed a mountain lion. It's basically the plot you would have expected as soon as it was introduced by the writers. It has some laughs because Max's antagonism towards Julian and Julian seeing Max as his father figure is working surprisingly well. On the other hand, there is no real emotional heart to their relationship that is explored within this episode. In other words: it's funny but forgettable, the comedic pairing is strong but shallow, and the plot is competently paced but predictable. The sub-plot simply pales when taken into consideration with the main plot that had actual layers and a heart to back up it's own predictable plot.
How to Have a Play Date is a good episode of How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life). The main plot might be predictable but it has a strong heart that grounds it while allowing Polly's motivations to be strongly conveyed. The sub-plot is just as predictable but lacks a heart to back it up. The two plots are funny as the show has managed to figure out how to utilize the characters well: I'm enjoying this show more and more as it draws towards it's end. For it's true: this first and only season only has three episodes left. It might have started out weakly but it slowly grew on me and it's become a consistently entertaining show.