Take Me to the Pilots '16: ABC's 'American Housewife'

AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE - Katy Mixon 2-Publicity-H 2016
Courtesy of ABC

[I'll remind you at the top of every single one of these: These entries are not reviews. They're gut reactions to not-for-air pilots that could change in big and small ways between now and September or October or midseason. Full reviews will come then. They'll be longer. And more carefully considered. The opinions may even change. Who knows?]

Show: American Housewife (ABC)
The Pitch: "The Middle ... Atlantic"
Quick Response: If ABC's Speechless is in the Black-ish/Fresh Off the Boat/Modern Family category of comedies that arrived confidently and fully formed, American Housewife is in the Real O'Neals/Goldbergs (depending on how you feel about that pilot) category of ABC comedy pilots with great bones and a huge amount of work to do. I'll leave out the title, which is generic and speaks very little to what this show is. Let's start at the top, where the wildly talented Katy Mixon is stuck with a voiceover that's constantly repeating and overemphasizing things the audience could figure out for itself. My notes say, "I get it already" repeatedly and I can't think of any time the voiceover made me laugh. It could/should be scrapped or de-emphasized. Once Mixon's character doesn't need to keep repeating she's on the verge of becoming "The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport," maybe weight can become just one of many things obsessing her, but here it's a mania and that's before you get to how much sense it makes coming from a Mixon-shaped package. Mixon's comic timing, perhaps in the Top 10 of current TV comedy actresses, gets a couple laughs from a character who is too frequently awful-awful instead of funny-awful, a problem that plagues nearly everybody here. Julia Butters shows real potential as complicated youngest daughter Anna-Kat, but the show needs to find a way to define the character and her set of obsessions and compulsions, which isn't the same as diagnosing her and just saying, "Oh, she's autistic" or what-have-you. The Middle, a show I watch only rarely but one American Housewife clearly yearns to emulate, has done a reasonable job of that with Brick the times I've tuned in. When it comes to the neocon middle son, everybody involved here has to go back and watch 50 episodes of Family Ties to see why Alex P. Keaton was charming/tolerable/funny, and this kid, thus far, is not. At all. And I'm sure the oldest daughter (played by the marvelously named Johnny Sequoyah of Believe) will be OK when the show moves beyond its pilot sense that defining a 13-year-old female character mostly by her breasts is a good idea. Ditto with Diedrich Bader as the patriarch of the family, whose character-defining desire to have sex with Katie when she doesn't want to isn't as cutely presented as creator Sarah Dunn apparently hopes. But Mixon, Bader, a couple of the young actors and snippets of sharp dialogue have me hoping that after it recovers from a bad case of pilotitis, American Housewife could better channel the things that work.
Desire to Watch Again: Moderate. I stuck with The Goldbergs through shout-y and erratic early episodes and it's pretty steadily above-average in every way now. The Real O'Neals hasn't gotten there quickly, but there were a couple episodes in the second half of its first season that lived up to its potential. I give shows chances. This will be no exception.

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