TV Review: “Surviving Jack”- Actually Not That Hard

Written by Emily Stewart April 07, 2014

Jack, Frankie and his friends on "Surviving Jack"

When I looked at a trailer for “Surviving Jack”, I was really hoping the 90s setting wouldn’t be a ridiculous pastiche. The good news is I’m not disappointed with this new family sitcom. If anything “Surviving Jack” is the easiest thing to do in the show. The title character, Jack Dunlevy (Christopher Meloni) has to raise his two teenagers, while his wife Joanne (Rachel Harris) pursues her studies in law school. His son, Frankie (Connor Buckley),  is awkward as possible, and his daughter, Rachel (Claudia Lee), is the typical “rebellious” teen who just wants to sleep with her dopey boyfriend Doug (Thomas Kasp). Jack’s dry sense of humour, “no-nonsense” type of parenting, and discipline methods make him the most tolerable character. Think of him as Red Foreman without the constant “dumbass” comments.

“Seriously? A Shotgun?”

Usually when a show’s about teens growing up in high school, I root for them. I can’t stand it when all kids and teenagers are put down just because of a few bad influences. However, I’m cheering for Jack over Frankie in “Surviving Jack”.  We’re introduced to him because his dad catches him watching “The Bikini Police”. It’s not the first time he’s caught, however. After stealing some porno magazines from homeless men camping in the woods, Doug sees his mom unexpectedly come into the house,so he buries them. A few hours later, he couldn’t stop thinking about them, so he digs them up, only to be caught by Jack. His dad punishes him by making him and his buddies return it, but not before he packs condoms in his lunch.

Frankie holding a magazine called "Barely Legal"

Jack doesn’t show a lot of sympathy for his kids’ mistakes, and the way he talks sense into his son is brilliant. We were all awkward in our teens, I get it. However, Frankie is so awkward, especially in the premiere, that it’s painful to watch at times. He and his friends are likable characters, though. Throughout the show, a much older version of the character reflects on his teen years. Watching him relive his adolescence through his father’s discipline is comedic, especially since he takes “tough love” to a much more amusing level.

The same cannot be said for handling Rachel, however, whose boyfriend’s just as painfully awkward. The parents, especially Jack, dislike him. Doug’s not a bad guy-and she cheats on him, in fact-but he’s not the brightest. I’m sure our taste in who we fancy has been questioned by our parents, but the way Jack and his wife handle it is a bit stereotypical. Walking in on two people about to get it on? Suggesting other people to date instead? Please. How many times has that happened in a TV show? Her relationship with is such a teenage stereotype.

I thought you were studying…

The only other complaint I have about “Surviving Jack” is the sitcom trope of things being forgotten episode after episode. The reason why he’s raising his kids in the first place is so Joanne can purse law school. In the next episode, however, there’s no mention of it, and she’s seen making snacks for Rachel and her friends. It’s not that big of a deal, but it seems strange that Joanne’s academics weren’t mentioned after the first episode. It’s noticeable too, since there’s a change of energy in her character. Hopefully they can make it more relevant in future episodes.

Joanne and Jack on "Surviving Jack"

“Surviving Jack” is the easiest part about the show. It’s good that Jack’s trying to get Frankie to snap back to his senses. His tough love discipline methods are quite funny, and it’ll be interesting to see how it helps Frankie grow as a character. The hardest, however, is dealing with the stereotypical teen relationship his daughter is in. Other than that, if you’re in the need of a sitcom with a snarky character, this is the show for you.

My Rating: 7.5/10

The cast of "Surviving Jack"

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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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