The pilot of I Hate My Teenage Daughter, which aired November 30, opens with a mini-twist. Two women sit in a coffee shop dissing two other, very bitchy-sounding women. Any prior hint about the show’s subject matter–or, for that matter, its title–gives away that they are talking about their daughters. The two moms, Annie (Jaime Pressly, My Name is Earl) and Nikki (Katie Finneran, Wonderfalls), talk about little else, it seems. Their gorgeous daughters, Sophie and Mackenzie flounce in, and we can kinda see what they’re talking about. They’re pretty bitchy, all right.
Teenagers hating their parents is nothing new, and it’s not hard to believe that a lot of parents secretly “hate” thier children, in turn. The show doesn’t leave us thinking that anyone really hates anyone, mind you, but we can understand the need for parents to vent their frustrations. Certainly raising a teenager, in a world filled with privilege and instant gratification can be no picnic. The challenge of the show however, is that if we are to laugh along with the moms, we need to like them. And they’re pretty horrible people.
The writers remind us ad nauseum that both Annie and Nikki had miserable teenagerhoods. Annie was raised by strict religious parents who forced her to wear homemade clothes. Nikki was fat and unattractive. Like Monica from friends, she is somehow hot now but her past appearance is still part of her character. Annie is divorced from Sophie’s self-centered musician father and has a crush on his clean-cut brother. Nikki is married to a golf pro with whom she bickers incessantly. No one gets along. Annie and Nikki even abuse each other.
The stand-out role in the pilot is that of high school principal Deanna Diego, played by Wendi McLendon-Covey (Lovespring International), although IMDB lists Rosa Blasi (Make It or Break It) as playing the part. I, for one, hope that McLendon-Covey isn’t going away. She and Nikki are old high school rivals and Deanna’s catiness trumps that of all the other characters; but she’s the kind of character you enjoy hating. She’s like Karen from Will and Grace or those horrible soccer moms from The New Adventures of Old Christine.
Oh, right, the plot. The plot is not particularly pilot-y. It’s nobody’s first day of school or birthday or anything; this story could have plopped down anywhere in the season. The moms are called in to the principal’s office–which is where we meet Deanna–and learn that their daughters locked a boy in a wheelchair in the bathroom. As punishment, they forbid the girls from going to a homecoming dance, which turns out to be a form of punishment for the moms, too. They were excited about “their” first dance, and they beat themselves up for raising horrible children. They eventually relent, Annie because Sophie manipulates here and Nikki just because she’s a big softie. There is a horrible scene of Nikki eating pie with her hands out of distress over the situation; not helping us like Nikki, or even funny. The punchline of the episode is at least amusing, if not surprising. The mothers punish the girls by embarrassing them at the dance.
To sum up, here’s what we learn from this pilot:
1. Mothers are directly responsible for everything their daughters do.
2. You never get over the crap people did to you in high school.
3. Being pretty is more important than being a good person.
I had high hopes for this show because I really like Jaime Pressly. I much prefer to see her play a big-haired, big-mouthed, take-no-shit kinda girl. She’s not nearly as much fun as an insecure, suburban pushover. Maybe the show will go someplace, but with a whole cast of hate-able characters, it’s not looking promising.