Monday, December 12, 2011

Pilot Review: I Hate My Teenage Daughter

I Hate My Teenage Daughter (Wednesdays at 9:30 on Fox)

Full disclosure: the 2-minute promo released in May at the upfronts cracked me up. I laughed out loud quite a few times in that trailer, so I assumed the rest of the show would be just as funny.

It was not.

The show is about two mothers, Annie (Jaime Pressly, My Name is Earl) and Nikki (Katie Finneran, Wonderfalls), and their two obscenely nasty daughters. Both mothers are divorced, living next door to each other, but still in constant contact with their exes in an attempt to bring structure to their kids' lives. Annie harbors a crush on her ex brother-in-law, Jack (Kevin Rahm, Desperate Housewives) and does not know how to confront the subject. Nikki harbors emotions from her adolescence, when she was constantly bullied, and does not want her daughter to have the same experience.

There's not much set-up for anything in the show. We are introduced to barebones background information on the two leading ladies, but it's all surface level. It's ironic there's no set-up for the characters or story, considering how every single joke is set-up/punchline. It's like Saturday morning TV humor. An example: "How can I be a bad parent? I'm never here!" The only funny parts were in that short trailer, unfortunately.

The performances are universally annoying. Jaime Pressly is channeling her character's accent from My Name is Earl and doesn't get very many truly funny moments. Katie Finneran, a seasoned and successful stage actress, is so broad and over-the-top that she seems completely out of place. Director Andy Ackerman, Emmy winner for Cheers and WKRP in Cincinnati, didn't seem to have much of a vision for anything, so it's no surprise that her performance wasn't reined in at all. Kevin Rahm and Eric Sheffer Stevens, as Annie's ex-husband, are dull and lifeless. The only amusing turn in the pilot is from Wendi McLendon-Covey (Reno 911!, Bridesmaids), the school principal who knew Nikki in high school and still acts like they're sixteen. She gives the most subtle performance and plays the comedy better than anyone else on screen. Unfortunately her screen time is limited to two scenes and about 4 total minutes.

I will compliment the writers on truly nailing the personalities of the teenage daughters. Their characterization is spot-on, and the overall relationship between young mothers and their unrelatable teenagers is actually relatable. I just wish they would've taken the comedy in a better direction, because it's not so much funny as it is mildly amusing at times. The rest of the time it's just painful.

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