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How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life): TV Review

How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life)' (ABC)
ABC
Sarah Chalke

The Bottom Line

A divorced woman with a young daughter moves back in with her wild and crazy parents. Wildness and craziness ensue. 

Premieres

9:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 3 (ABC)

ABC's sitcom stars Sarah Chalke as a divorced woman who moved back in with her wild and crazy parents.

Despite theoretically being on a 52-week television season, there's still something that smells fishy about a sitcom that arrives in April (and has jokes in it about the Academy Awards). Then again, in a season of constant failure, a comedy that people sample in April has as much of a chance to live another day in the fall as all those highly touted series that actually did come out this fall. So who knows?

How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life) takes its clunky title to your television screen at 9:30 p.m. Wednesday on ABC in an attempt to see if anyone in America is watching anything other than Duck Dynasty.

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It stars the wonderful Sarah Chalke (Scrubs) as Polly, a divorced mother of a young daughter Natalie (Rachel Eggleston), who moves back in with her parents. Culture clash! See, her mother, Elaine (Elizabeth Perkins), and father, Max (Brad Garrett),are still feeling that 1970s vibe of loose-parenting -- the kind that possibly resulted in Polly being a little uncentered. Well, now Polly wants to make sure that she raises Natalie right (meaning not like she was raised), but the free babysitting she gets from Elaine and Max usually comes with lots of drinking, inadvertent swearing and less-than-textbook oversight.

And yet, Polly is finding the need to get back out into the dating world. Meanwhile her ex, Julian (Jon Dore), has to learn how to change the slacker, unfit lifestyle that helped fuel the divorce in the first place as he's called upon to step up and be a dad.

How to Live With Your Parents is a fish-out-of-water story, naturally, and thus seems all-too-familiar. But the show is spiked with enough talent (hard to go too wrong with Chalke, Perkins and Garrett) that it could conceivably find an audience. However, one of the reasons that viewers are staying away from "traditional" television is that they've seen all of these concepts before. No matter how frantically charming Chalke is, or how perfectly inebriated and dismissive Perkins can be as she milks the role for all its got, there's an oh-this-is-too-forced element in play. Garrett is admirably reserved for him and gets to do more quick-witted verbal sparring than anything too manic or physical -- which puts him to good use here -- but the trio have a hard time making the material into something that won't become overly-overly-familiar by, say, the fifth episode.

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Executive produced by Claudia Lonow, Francie Calfo and Brian Grazer, the series has more than enough zesty one-liners to bring an audience back for more. But how long before the notion of living with your parents and the chaos it creates grows a little old? Although the pilot is more heavy-handed than future episodes (which effectively calm everyone down, particularly Dore as the ex), even if it finds its rhythm there's the idea that Polly is too underemployed at the local market to keep this living situation an actual comic situation for too long. It appears that How to Live With Your Parents started out its life as a comedy meant to reflect the economic downturn -- thus a seemingly bright, lovely woman in her 30s who can't find a job seems plausible. But times aren't so bad anymore and having Polly fail to succeed while trying to date a series of guys and have a life might be stretching the premise not only beyond believability, but beyond the viewer's endurance.

You have to grow up and get out of the house at some time, even if your job sucks.

Of course, How to Live With Your Parents could also catch fire and be a massive hit. It has a fine lead-in. And the cast is quite likable and working with precision to keep things as funny as possible for 20-plus minutes. Who knows? An entry into what would normally be considered the very late part of the TV season may not be a forgotten, unsupported, last-gasp effort. It could be our new world order where any show at any time must be considered on its own merits, not laden down with concerns about the timing of its premiere. Which is a long way of saying, there's some good stuff here, there's some not so good stuff here. Take a look and you decide. Once the world went Duck Dynasty crazy, it became harder to guess at what might actually be popular.

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com
Twitter: @BastardMachine