Network TV has been doing something interesting the past few years, essentially having two premiere episodes; one to set up the premise, one to set up the series. The Last Man on Earth and The Good Place premiered with back to back episodes. Son of Zorn premiered “early” before having its first airing on Sunday. And The Mick premiered Sunday of this week before moving to its usual night of Tuesday. Therefore, Sunday’s episode was the pilot, but last night’s was the first episode of the series. Unfortunately, the pilot struck me as far better than the first episode (the grandparents), which makes me suspicious of the show’s potential longevity.
Kaitlin Olson, one of the most talented comedic actor working today (her contributions over 12 years to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia have been tremendous). Her all-limbed physical humor, quick wit, and short fuse temper has made her a logical choice to headline a hard-edged comedy. And while The Mick might stand out for focusing on a very non-maternal female anti-hero, the show wisely doesn’t focus on gender immediately. They have other things to bite on satirically…class.
Like Uncle Buck (the show’s clearest inspiration), Mickey arrives at her wealthier sister’s house. Unlike John Candy (another comedic actor, not comedian), Mickey’s clearly not a welcomed presence in the world. But The Mick turns the extremes up a few notches. Rather than suburban wealth, Mickey’s sister is mansion rich. So rich, the family’s been committing fraud and the party Mickey crashes turns out to be an FBI raid. Mickey’s obligated by family duty (and promise she’ll be paid off) to stay with her sister’s kids after the arrests. And Mickey finds certain pleasures in mansion living.
Also more extreme than Uncle Buck, the show ups the antagonistic relationship between Mickey and her niece and nephews. She gets her smart mouth teenage niece Sabrina (Sofia Black-D’Elia) drugged on cough syrup to keep her from going out one night (and feeds her an owl as revenge for acting up at the end of pilot). But she has less control over a mini Alex P. Keaton nephew named Chip (Thomas Barbusca). But she has no issues with Ben (newcomer Jack Stanton), a very funny child she gets most of her laughs from in the pilot with some genuine bonding (even if completely inappropriate) when letting him ditch school, steal ice cream, and using his credit card.
The reason the pilot works better than Tuesday’s premiere is the tone used gave a tart and sweet nature to Mickey’s character. In the pilot, she is hard-living, heavy drinking, screw-up, and black sheep of the family. But she also seems genuinely concerned for Ben and doesn’t want to abandon her kids. And her big kid in a mansion comedy (especially with Carla Jimenez’s maid Alba) feels more immature than mean-spirited in its destructiveness.
“The Grandparents” is hard-edged, and Mickey feels more in the spirit of her It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia character. She leaves the children with grandparents who are truly abusive (hitting children) which simply goes too far, especially the grandmother character played by Concetta Tomei (I hope we don’t see her back too often). And Mickey is terrible towards new friend Alba (who leaves with her) getting her stoned and then leaving with a dangerous loan shark (still not resolved as of the end of the episode).
What is resolved is having the kids and Mickey exactly in the place they were at the end of the pilot – stuck together because their fugitive parents fled the country. Mickey will stay and take care of them, only now with her mustached “boyfriend” Jimmy (a very funny Scott MacArthur). The first episode could have almost been scrapped, and we could just start the series from the same place. But because of the bad taste left by the episode “The Grandparents,” I’m entering this show with definite uncertainty about its potential. Too much edge like this could easy turn a fun, outrageous show into something too mean-spirited to enjoy. But other shows have turned it around as quickly, like Raising Hope which realized by episode 2 that Virginia and Burt worked better as dumb parents, not mean parents. If Mickey’s immaturity and out of place status is used to endear her to audiences (despite her bad behavior), I could easily see The Mick taking the much-needed place of other working class comedies like My Name is Earl and Raising Hope.