“The Millers” is one of CBS’s new sitcoms for the 2013 fall season, joining the likes of “Mom” and “The Crazy Ones”. Greg Garcia’s new show is based around The Miller family’s disintegration after they discover that their son, Nathan (Will Arnett), has gotten a divorce. Now Nathan and his sister, Debbie (Jayma Mays) must deal with their parents (Margo Martindale and Beau Bridges), who have chosen to live with them after getting their own divorce.
Rising Above the Pilot
I’ll admit that after watching “The Millers” pilot, I had my doubt about this show. The first twenty-two minutes are full of lame fart jokes and humour at the expense of old people, none of which are particularly witty or actually funny. However, the cast was an incentive for watching more, and I was glad I did. The lame jokes practically disappeared following the pilot, and while the humour is often still crude and dirty, it’s genuinely funny, not something recycled out of decades of TV sitcoms before. There are plenty of pop-culture references, and more often than not, the dialogue feels natural and authentic.
A huge part of the improvement in the show is the strong cast. The two people who steal the show repeatedly are the parents, Carol and Tom. They grab attention because they are such polar opposites: Tom’s clueless, helpless meandering through life is often the cause of much of the show’s comedy, while Carol’s domineering, overbearing presence over the family always provides a central point of conflict for each episode. As Ray (J. B. Smoove) points out in a meta moment, “It’s a formula, but it works!”
The rest of the cast is also quite interesting. Arnett’s Nathan is the definition of an eligible bachelor, reminiscent of Joel McHale’s Jeff from “Community”, except in Nathan’s case, we see exactly where he gets all his peculiar habits: his eccentric family. Jayma Mays is wonderful as the screw-up sister who suddenly finds herself as the most stable person in her family. Smoove portrays Nathan’s best friend and co-worker, Ray, who, despite his outrageous personality, is often the voice of reason in.
Not only is the cast pretty strong, but they all seem to have excellent chemistry with one another. Tom and Carol are the world’s worst couple and that forms the basis for the rest of the relationships. Debbie and Nathan are completely believable as siblings, never more than in the 9th episode “You’re in Trouble”. Even more surprising is that the relationship between Debbie and her husband, Adam, is endearing and cute, despite the fact that they have money troubles, got married because she was pregnant, and generally seem to be quite lost in life.
But What Now?
“The Millers” may have lucked out with a great cast and interesting premise, but ten episodes in, and it doesn’t seem like the show is going anywhere, really. The aforementioned formula that the show has been following is starting to get a little old. Most of the episodes deal with Carol and how her overbearing personality has affected her family, and often, she is proved right despite whatever mess she brews. While it was funny the first few times it happened (like when she fakes a neighbour’s death to bring her family together . . . yeah), it’s about time to see her being on the losing side.
Carol is not the only one who needs to change a little either. While all the characters are great and well-rounded, there doesn’t seem to be any development for any of them. The Millers are static, good, but static. However, even the strongest of characters needs to develop over time to avoid being old and rusty.
Overall, “The Millers” is a solid sitcom; you are guaranteed some genuine laughs and comedic moments at the expense of this wacky family. However, here’s to hoping that when the show returns January 2nd, we see more development.