The Millers: TV Review

"The Millers" with Will Arnett and Margo Martindale
A brother and a sister get a visit from their parents -- an overbearing mother and a clueless father. When the parents find out the son has divorced, all hell breaks loose and the father wants a divorce from the mother, splitting both off to live with their children.

CBS's latest comedy has tons of talent, but an extremely broad approach to comedy. If that's your thing, go for it. Otherwise, maybe it's just a good chance for some good people to get a good paycheck. And that's fine, too.

I've had a change of heart about CBS's latest sitcom, The Millers. I still don't like it -- not even a little. I still think the pilot is broad and dumb. But the revamped pilot, while doing a bit of recasting and some fine tuning, was better, by fractions, than the original pilot, even though series creator Greg Garcia didn't take out the fart jokes that star Margo Martindale has to utter -- more than once.

Fart jokes are stupid. In this case, they are really stupid. And they linger like, well, you know. 

So what, exactly, is the change of heart? 

It's this: I really like all the major players in the cast (particularly Will Arnett). Some of them have done work that ranks among the most hilarious or entertaining I've ever seen (particularly Martindale and Arnett). My biggest gripe about The Millers was that I thought it was an egregious waste of talent. The cynical part of me (and no, I'm not all parts cynicism) suspected that those involved just wanted to make an old school multi-camera sitcom -- but most importantly make it for CBS, which would allow it to become an enormous hit and watched by millions -- and one that might turn into a long run, probably make a lot of money, and possibly enter syndication. From a business perspective, I totally get it.

And here's the other thing I reconsidered: Broad comedies, the ones done by CBS with these oppressive laugh tracks or hyped-up mooks in the live studio audience, are not for me. I have, on the other hand, enjoyed a number of multi-camera sitcoms in my time, most notably Seinfeld. So it's not the format so much as how the format allows the comedy to be duller and broader because you've always got the laugh track to enable the audience.

Also, comedy is subjective. This is not my kind of comedy. Having watched the original pilot twice and the revised pilot once, I hope to never watch The Millers again until a great number of people I respect are pleading in public that it has improved dramatically. Maybe then I'll give it another chance.

But in the meantime, I'd like these people whose work I truly enjoy to find happiness, success, and money. Creator and writer Garcia made two series I really and truly love -- My Name is Earl and the currently still on the air Raising Hope. I wish him well. He's a straight up guy. 

Garcia created the premise to The Millers, which is a very simple one, in that Nathan Miller (Arnett, Arrested Development), a local news reporter assigned any number of silly stories, finds out from his sister in the same town, Debbie (Jayma Mays, Glee), that their parents are coming to town from Florida. Those parents are Carol (Martindale) -- who is very meddling, a penny-pincher, judgmental and a real handful -- and Tom (Beau Bridges) -- who is mostly clueless and low-maintenance, if the latter description is taken to mean that he really can't do anything on his own, so he'll probably just sit and watch TV. 

Why is Nathan worried about them visiting? Because he never told them he got divorced. He's been lying. Now he'll have to tell them. Debbie never told them either, but is loving the fact that perfect son Nathan will be on the disapproving end (whereas Debbie got pregnant early on by Adam (Nelson Franklin). Yeah, that's the thing. Worrying what the parents will think. And what do they think? Mom freaks out, Dad gets inspired (apparently he's always wanted a divorce and now that Nathan has done it, why not?), so they split. Carol moves in with Nathan. Tom moves in with Debbie and Ray and their child, Mikayla (Eve Moon).

Hilarity is supposed to ensue, but I never saw it. I did hear a lot of fart jokes. I also saw Arnett make some unfunny material worth watching. And I watched Martindale nail every line, every thing she was asked to do, as I expected her to do. J.B. Smoove (Curb Your Enthusiasm) is also in this. I like both Smoove and Franklin, by the way. And Mays was great in Glee -- when I actually could stomach watching Glee. So, look, there's a ton of talent here.

Why did Garcia want to make this show? Not sure. Why did Arnett and Martindale want to be in it? Not sure. But they did, it's done, and it's on. And as much as I don't like it, I pretty much love the whole cast. So getting angry about not liking this CBS comedy when I like almost no other CBS comedies seems pointless. Good luck to everybody here. I'm going to be off watching Raising Hope, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Americans, and Justified to see your other work. That should about cover it (and, since I even watch 30 Rock reruns, I'm bound to see more of Arnett in that, too).

So, look, I'm good with The Millers. Godspeed everybody. 

Twitter: @BastardMachine