TV Review: “How To Live With Your Parents” – Dysfunctional Family Indeed

Written by Emily Stewart June 06, 2013

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When sitcoms first aired on television, they were usually about a family. Even if the characters weren’t related to each other, there would still be some sort of family based on colleagues. More sitcom families today are composed of co-workers, classmates, and friends. As a result there appear to be less sitcom families about family members themselves.Honestly, other than “Modern Family”, there doesn’t appear to be a lot that have taken off.

“How To Live With Your Parents (For The Rest of Your Life)”, introduces a rare personal journal style. Unfortunately, it follows the same formula as anything else with an episodic narrative. While newly divorced Polly (Sarah Chalke) and her family are for sure a dysfunctional family, and are irritating at the beginning, they become likable.

Patience and Tolerance

The show begins with Polly and young daughter Natalie (Rachel Eggleston) at her parents’ doorsteps. They move in with Elaine (Elizabeth Perkins) and  Max (Brad Garrett) following Polly’s divorce from her husband Julian (Jon Dore). Despite the separation, however, Julian is often seen hanging around there, and even refers to Max as “dad”.

Every episode is based on Polly trying to achieve a particular goal, whether it’s running a marathon or finding a new boyfriend.  Meanwhile, her outgoing and outspoken parents are often responsible for supervising Natalie. However, they have completely different views on how to raise a child. “How To Live With Your Parents” will often flashback to Polly’s childhood to demonstrate. Carefree Julian will also look after Natalie as well. That is, if Polly isn’t trying to help him out.

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At first, most of the adult characters are obnoxious. The crude remarks from Polly’s parents, along with the whining and complaining of the rest of the characters, were overwhelming at the start of the series. However, after a bit of warming up the characters do become likable, and try their best to make each other happy. The situations they face as a family are more hilarious with each episode, yet still relatable.

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 All of the actors portray their characters’ dynamic personalities too. However, if there are any cliches, it’s the “life-coaching” Elaine and the often grumpy Max. Also, for someone who found Julian to be an irresponsible and immature father, Polly sure is one to talk. She spends a lot of time away from Natalie, even when she isn’t working, throwing fits at her parents, and putting her needs first; she’s even more childish than her daughter. Even when she throws a “play date” for Natalie, she tries to make it a “normal” one to make up for her lack of friends she had growing up; putting the blame on her theater-loving parents.

 How To Try To Be Unique

The only aspect of the show that is remotely different from the standard sitcom is the use of special effects. Campy labels are written to describe a character, object, or situation, like a personal journal. “How To Live With Your Parents” certainly achieves this with the use of voice-overs from Polly as well . Other than that, the show follows the tired sitcom formula of erasing what happened the episode before, maybe leaving the odd reference. The only serial narratives, the relationships of Polly and Julian post-divorce, last no more than two or maybe three episodes. Then again, this series was just cancelled, so there isn’t much time left to stretch.

SARAH CHALKE, RACHEL EGGELSTON, BRAD GARRETT, JON DORE, ELIZABETH PERKINS

“How To Live With Your Parents”, while recently axed, is not terrible. The characters’ behaviour and actions can be obnoxious and unbelievable, but it’s easy to get attached to them after a few episodes. At the end, it’s a charming little sitcom. That said, if you are looking for an alternative formula to comedy, this might not be the best show to begin with.

 My Rating: 6.5/10

BRAD GARRETT, STEPHANIE HUNT, SARAH CHALKE, RACHEL EGGLESTON, ELIZABETH PERKINS, JON DORE

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About Emily Stewart

Emily is a Media, Information and Technoculture student at Western University who likes to put her critical thinking skills and passion for writing to good use, including reviewing TV shows for We Eat Films.

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