How to Live With Your Parents (For The Rest of Your Life): Wednesdays 9:30pm, ABC
When it comes to television, even broadcast television, networks tend to have their own historical strengths and weaknesses. Fox, for example, built their network on The Simpsons, but also has a fairly rich tradition of animated comedy over the past decade. NBC had its’ Thursday Night comedy juggernaut throughout the 80’s and 90’s. CBS rules the roost with its’ alphabet soup of forensic shows and mediocre-to-bad Chuck Lorre comedies.
As for ABC, when I think of them, the first thing that pops into my mind is their domestic/family comedies going back to eighties, be it Growing Pains, Full House, Home Improvement, Roseanne, Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, Modern Family, or as the network that inexplicably gave According to Jim eight seasons. From this long line of dom-coms comes ABC’s newest show: How to Live with Your Parents (For The Rest of Your Life).
How to Live is about uptight divorcee Polly (Sarah Chalke) whom due to the economy is forced to move back in with her laid back parents Max and Elaine (Brad Garrett and Elizabeth Perkins). Things are further complicated however, as her ex-husband Julian (Jon Dore) hangs around in her life, mostly to be around their daughter, Natalie (Rachel Eggleston). The pilot picks up about a year after this move, only to find Polly stuck in a state of relative inertia about how to piece her life back together in terms of both love and money.
So how does How to Live fare? Well it’s very obvious from moment one that Polly is very much a straight up retooling of Elliot Reed, neuroses and all. In fact the opening segment takes liberally from Scrubs, including a number of narration to cut away gags that seemed like lesser versions of your average John Dorian flashbacks. The writing in general is mediocre and inoffensive, if a little formulaic at points. For example, was there really a need to introduce Julian in the second segment in a throw away scene that says almost nothing about the character that wasn’t brought up in the introduction?
The acting is generally pretty competent, despite the often lacking material. Elizabeth Perkins is particularly strong as Polly’s mom, as she sells the oft ridiculous and borderline negligent nature of her character perfectly. Brad Garrett is similarly competent as Max, Polly’s stepfather, an occasionally peevish but fairly responsible father-figure. Sarah Chalke’s Polly, however is a little too neurotic and overwrought at times, as if the weight of the world is on her shoulders despite the relatively low stakes of the show (How low are they? So low that Julian would conceivably save her from a bad date).
The Final Verdict: How to Live With Your Parents (for the Rest of your Life) is the definition of mediocre. It’s not completely unfunny, but a red flag pops up in my mind when I realize that I laughed more at the last five minutes of tonight’s Modern Family (from tuning in early), than I did in thirty minutes of How to Live. I’d recommend skipping it, though there’s enough chemistry in the cast that if it ever moves from taking it’s characters and structure from other shows and tightens up it’s jokes a little more, it could eventually become a serviceable fourth show for a block that already has three very strong comedies.