Monster In-Laws: TV Review

A visceral and undeniably entertaining look at the tension between couples and the parents they inherit through marriage, Monster In-Laws shies more toward Dr. Phil redemption than Basketball Wives animosity.

The upcoming reality series, produced by Brent and Courtney Montgomery, takes the therapy route.

Navigating a relationship with the parents of one’s spouse has long been a vexing relationship challenge. To wit, in-law jokes — most of them directed at inherited mothers — have become standard fare in comedy clubs, literature, films and television.

Cribbing its title from Monster-in-Law, the 2005 Jane Fonda/Jennifer Lopez comedy concerning just such a conflict, A&E’s new series Monster In-Laws explores the dysfunction of those extended families who, to put it mildly, don’t see eye-to-eye.

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In the premiere episode, we meet Kim, her husband Anthony and their young daughter Nina Marie, a middle class family in western New York whose lives are dominated by the presence of Kim’s parents, Richie and Pam.

“Having a granddaughter is the biggest thing in the world,” Pam says, justifying the insane amount of time she and her husband spend at their daughter’s home doting on Nina Marie. “It’s better than sex. It’s better than anything.”

The real monster here, however, is not Pam, but Richie, a bald, Italian, my-way-or-the-highway dad.

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“Anthony’s and Kim’s rules are not my rules when my granddaughter is with us,” Richie says unapologetically. “She lives by my rules, and if you guys can’t understand that then you got a problem.”

Of course, none of this sits too well with Anthony or Kim, though the couple have brought much of their predicament on themselves seeing as they’ve gone into business with Kim’s parents in an Italian restaurant named ... wait for it ... Nina Marie’s.

“Getting into business with my in-laws was definitely one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made,” Anthony says, explaining why he and Kim abruptly walked out on their duties at the restaurant, leaving Richie to manage it.

To be sure, there’s no shortage of problems on Monster In-Laws, and the explosive promos for the show would lead you to believe that it will turn out to be little more than a Basketball Wives scream-fest in family form.

Instead, producers Brent Montgomery (Pawn Stars) and Courtney Montgomery (What the Sell?!) have mercifully opted for the therapy model of reality television (see also: Hoarders and Intervention) in which a specialist is brought in to try and fix all that is so obviously broken with our protagonists.

Within moments of her arrival at the home, “family expert” Mel Robbins can see what’s what.

“It’s Ritchie’s rules. He doesn’t care what the parents want. So, yes, obviously he’s undermining the family, and it’s pissing Kim and Anthony off,” Robbins says in a cut away interview.

Diagnosis is the easy part, however, and Robbins is no Cesar Millan when it comes to whispering problems away. Her solution for getting Richie and Pam to start respecting their daughter and stepson? She rips off large pieces of duct tape from a roll and tells her to affix them over her parents’ mouths.

Suffice it to say that this suggestion pushes the half-hour episode to its emotional climax. What makes the proceedings stand out from other shouting match television, is that Richie and Anthony show genuine pain and vulnerability amidst their tantrums.

The tension in this particular family feels all-too-real, and not entirely manufactured for ratings. For a genre that seems to require bigger blowouts, and more spectacular life transformations with each passing season, that’s no small feat.