I Hate My Teenage Daughter

I Hate My Teenage DaughterThe 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. Continue reading

Raising Hope

This intent of this blog isn’t to give you reviews of all the latest shows, as there are many fine websites already doing just that. I like to look back at shows with the perspective of time, especially after they’ve been cancelled—it’s just more fun that way. That being said, with all the new shows premiering last week, only one stood out to me as not totally sucking so I figured the pilot deserved some discussion.

Anyone who has watched Fox in the past 6 weeks really didn’t need to watch this pilot for the premise, since the whole thing was spelled out in the previews. The “from the producers of My Name is Earl” angle was played up heavily and most of the great jokes were given away. So, this was one of those pilots you just want to get out of the way and start watching the show—because the show is freaking hilarious.

A quick rundown: a 25-year-old living with his parents and working a dead end job ends up solely responsible for his illegitimate daughter after the child’s mother gets the electric chair. Dark enough for you? Even without knowing about the “Earl” connection, the tone and look of the show give it away. It’s got this slightly dreary feeling, filled with objects so out of date, you can’t be sure of the time period at first. It could be 1980, or these people could just have really crappy furniture. It also has the loopiness that allows us not feel guilty as we watch a baby being flung around the backseat of a car. Yet, it retains a sweetness. It’s darker than, say, “Malcolm in the Middle,” but it’s not quite “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

There are some unexpected moments in the pilot. After the main character, Jimmy (Lucas Neff) dramatically tells off his boss and quits his job, he comes home, where we learn that said boss is also Jimmy’s dad (Garrett Dillahunt). The other thing not seen coming in the previews is the flashback idea. Flashbacks can sometimes be used for lazy storytelling, but these are very effective, endearing us to the mother and father characters, and adding depth. The scene toward the end of the (grand)parents singing to the baby is very sweet amid all the crudeness. Not that the crudeness is bad… puking on a baby at the sight of a dirty diaper… that is some funny shznit. It’s too bad it was revealed in the preview. Here’s hoping that subsequent episodes are just as funny, and these characters will become as loveable as the Hickeys.

My Name is Earl

The a simple premise: a hillbilly criminal (Jason Lee) decides to turn his karma around by righting the wrongs he’s committed in his 30-odd years. There is a lot of back story to tell us how he got here, though. The first thing that strikes me about the pilot is that the creators communicate a ton of information in very concise packages. Having voiceover by the protagonist helps, of course, but in under ten minutes we have a picture of Earl’s whole life up to the present moment. For example, a quick close-up of Joy’s belly, and Earl looking over at it from his position before the porcelain god, tells us all we need to know about their marriage.

We’re introduced to lot of colorful characters; there’s Earl’s ex-wife, Joy (Jaime Pressly), his brother, Randy (Ethan Suplee), Randy’s love internet, Catalina (Nadine Velazquez), Joy’s old/new man, Darnell (Eddie Steeples), an old schoolmate, Kenny, and a couple of kids with questionable parentage. They’re so white trash, the jokes spawn like microorganisms. They’ve never even heard the word karma until Carson Daly explains it, and they figure he made it up. Yet, by the time it’s all over, we’ve come to like a guy who, as he describes, you would wait to exit a convenience store before you and your family go in.

Earl’s transgressions range from robbery to “harmed and possibly killed people with second-hand smoke.” We get a little commentary on gay issues, since the first person Earl chooses to help is a closeted gay man who has never had the confidence, thanks to Earl’s childhood taunting, to come out. It all brings us to a feel-good ending that is at once funny and slightly bizarre. Rob Bass and DJ Easy Rock are an unlikely unifier. The ending is so quirkily sweet, it’s almost a tear-jerker.

So we get a great one-off story as well as a great set-up with potential for many seasons to come. Each actor shines in his or her own way, with great costuming and tons of hilarious and character-revealing one-liners. They’re stereotypes, sure, but we want to revel in their mistakes and hope for their futures; except maybe Joy’s. She’s such a bitch.