Let’s get this out of the way first: How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) is a terrible title. It’s about seven or eight syllables too long and it doesn’t even shorten well (cutting it down to How to Live with Your Parents doesn’t sound much better).
However, it’s a good sign when a horrible title is a show’s only real problem. The comedy itself, premiering Wednesday, April 3 at 9:30pm on ABC, is funny and touching with a terrific cast of comedy all-stars.
HTLWYPFTROYL (nope, using the initials doesn’t make the title any better) begins with newly single mom Polly (Scrubs star Sarah Chalke) moving back in with her free-spirited mom Elaine (Weeds star Elizabeth Perkins) and her equally wacky stepdad Max (Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Brad Garrett). As the title suggests (assuming you made it through the whole thing without falling asleep), she’ll be staying with them for quite some time.
What follows is a well-paced, well-acted, funny show about parenting styles and family. Elaine has no boundaries, proudly telling anyone who will listen about her sex life, including what body part tastes good with jelly smeared on it (hint: it’s not a finger). But as much as Polly likes to think she’s nowhere near that bad, she spends the episode sleeping next to her daughter and going over a long list of emergency contacts before going out on a “D-A-T-E.”
What makes Live with Your Parents (nope, still not a good title) great is the cast. Chalke is perfectly suited for comedy stardom, combining the neurotic insecurity of Eliot from Scrubs with the tough “single mom against the world” attitude of Stella from How I Met Your Mother. Perkins steals scenes left and right as a mom who thinks there’s no such thing as over-sharing. It’s like someone finally took the stick out of Celia Hodes’ butt from Weeds.
Even Garrett masterfully plays the quirky comedy of a man trying to reclaim his youth after losing something very precious to testicular cancer. I always thought he was a bit too over-the-top and hammy on Everybody Loves Raymond, but here he reminds me of a young Peter Bogdanovich, which I admit is an oddly specific but still flattering reference.
The Rest of Your Life (still bad, so obviously that part was put in parentheses for a reason) also excels with Polly’s daughter. She’s believable, a little girl who loves dressing in a fur wrap she probably found in her grandma’s closet and who can go from pretending to be a princess to pretending to be a mermaid in an instant. She’s not overly precious or wise beyond her years like, say, Shania on The New Normal.
In fact, this show reminds me a lot of what The New Normal could and should be if it weren’t so preachy, saccharine and schizophrenic. The hilarity and emotion are played in unison, not as opposing forces like on the NBC comedy. There’s even a loser ex who keeps trying to inject himself into Polly’s life.
Instead, How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) (OK, I give up, there’s absolutely no way to make that title bearable) is a heartwarming family comedy with three immensely talented actors and a smart, witty script. I guess all the real effort and skill went into making the show and not titling it.
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(Image courtesy of ABC)