How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)
Episode 12: How to Help the Needy
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 have very mixed feelings about How to Help the Needy. It wasn't as funny as the other episodes that have aired. I think this is an episode that was meant to air before the one where Julian temporarily moves out of his apartment since this is the one where they get Natalie the playhouse that he moves into. If so, I can understand why this episode was moved to air so late. It wasn't as strong but it wasn't a completely bad episode. It managed to have the right heart and I ended up liking it for that reason. How to Help the Needy is not the best episode this show has done but it is one that manages to succeed despite all it's blunders. I guess you could use this episode as an example of when a comedy show works when the jokes aren't. It's a bit ridiculous to claim as I like to believe that a comedy shouldn't just be judged on it's merits of plot and character but also how much it can make me laugh. A good comedy is one that's funny. To suggest otherwise is a bit silly but there are times when I must admit that a comedy presents a good episode that didn't make me laugh. Why is this? I don't know. I think it's because it did good character work, it developed the relationships, or it simply was a good episode of television outside of criteria of humor. The main purpose of a comedy should be to make you laugh. The plot, characters, and themes should be just as important but the jokes should be paramount. How to Help the Need got the plot, the characters, and the theme right. This makes it a passable episode of a comedy. It simply failed the actual comedy part which stops it from truly being as good as the other How to Live parents. It's a bit disappointing since we only have one episode left to have a dud but at least it's not a complete waste of time. Who knows? It might have worked better if it was aired in order. It's too bad the network didn't do this considering how there's actually recurring elements that are introduced throughout the series.
The main plot has to do between the relationship of Elaine and Polly. The two have already been shown to have had a strained relationship because of Elaine's refusal to sacrifice for her daughter. Elaine is simply a character who likes to be the center of the universe and she doesn't like it when the spotlight shines away from her. She gets jealous of her own daughter during a birthday bash when Polly's homeless initiative steals away the attention from her friends. Polly feels a little bit guilty about this even though she did nothing wrong. Elaine certainly shouldn't expect that people pay attention to her all the time. She needs to allow room for her daughter to shine. There's a reason why an earlier episode had Polly refuse to consider herself a Mary Tyler and it's because of her larger-than-life mother. Having Polly take the spotlight is a new experience of Elaine and she doesn't handle it well. Polly tries to fix this by giving Elaine an audition. Elaine instantly allows it to get to her head as first she's nervous but then she's elated because she thinks her acting career will finally take off. When Elaine doesn't get the part, she starts to lose which is when Polly finally admits her resentment. A resentment created because Polly always had to adjust to her mother's life. She would be forced to go on auditions and sets rather than getting her education. She had to give up an important meeting over her homeless food charity so that Elaine would have the confidence to audition for the role. Polly has had to sacrifice over and over again her own interests for her mother. She's had to give up her own happiness and interests to please her dramatic mom. The two are able to talk it over in the car as Elaine finally realizes the strain she's put on Polly's life. It's a strong main plot that works because of the relationship core between Elaine and Polly.
The sub plot has a strong core as well. Julian and Max decide to put in a playhouse for Natalie. This creates conflict between them because they can't decide on it. They first try to look at playhouses online but Max doesn't think that any of them properly fit his house. They decide to build their own playhouse but quickly disagree on the interior. Julian is basing his interior design on what Natalie liked last week while Max is trying to keep it open to what she's going to like in the future so she keeps using it. Here's where the show makes some pretty great points: Max is involved in his granddaughter's daily life while Julian has been kicked to the background. This has made Max more aware of Julian's daughter than Julian himself. The whole plot basically boils down to the father figure trying desperately to remain relevant in his daughter's life as he finds his role being diminished. The conflict might have led to an accident where Max accidentally loses a tip of his finger but it all worked great because it remained concentrated on that core.
How to Help the Needy is not the best episodes as it wasn't that funny but it still worked. The main plot had a great core by exploring how Elaine's desire for the spotlight has affected her dynamics with her daughter. The sub plot had a strong core as it explored Julian's fears over having less of a daily impact on his own daughter's life. He tried to use the play house as a way to remain relevant in her life even as he quickly found himself losing ground in his project. These two strong cores gave the episode a strong heart that makes it a winning episode. There's one more episode and then we're done...even with this weaker episode, I'm going to find myself sad when this show finally ends. It's managed to grow on me and I think it earned itself a second season in the end.