Did we like it?
If the sitcom plague cart was shuffling gloomily through the endless streets of TV channels mournfully asking for the dead to be thrown out, this old-fashioned family sitcom would be tossed mindlessly on to the pile.
What was good about it?
• When Dave and Vicky think they’ve worked out daughter Hillary’s ruse of dating a black teenager in order to let them date the lesser evil, in Dave’s eyes, of a college freshman, Vicky says that she pulled the same trick when she was a teenager. Up pops “Vicky’s mom” in the fantasy sequence box to counter he daughter’s claim. “We weren’t stupid,” she protests, “we just didn’t care.”
What was bad about it?
• The canned laughter. It sounds like the piteous empty laughter of a thousand damned souls resigned to an eternity of torture with a red hot stake.
• The character of Dave Gold (Michael Rapaport) who suffers from being a cross between Alf Garnett and Ben Harper from My Family. On the one hand, it’s clear that Dave is a boorish bigot who endures a tortuous phobia that his son Larry could be gay, and that his daughter sleeping with a college student is preferable to her being tainted by dating a black teenager. But on the other hand, the script is also angled towards eliciting sympathy for Dave as he struggles with his three teenage children so casting him as “not a bad guy really”.
• The device of cutting away from situations and into a sequence against a white screen during which the character’s true feelings or reactions are shown doesn’t really work. It’s mostly like when The Office used to cut away for one-on-ones with David Brent or Gareth but with none of the humour or pathos.
• The way in which because Larry is a little odd, his dad worries that he is gay and does so not from the perspective of a pompous old anachronism, but from the point of view that he is reflecting the ignorant concerns of modern American fathers.
• The trial of parents with teenagers isn’t explored with any originality; in fact it seems to relish the stolid traditionalism of the roles. The eldest son’s sexuality worries his parents, the 16-year-old daughter is growing up much to her father’s displeasure and the youngest son is a raging ball of testosterone who leers over his friend’s cosmetically-enhanced mother.