Single mom moves back home in a ‘topical, timely’ sitcom
BY LORI RACKL TV Criticemail@example.com April 1, 2013 7:54PM
ELIZABETH PERKINS, BRAD GARRETT, SARAH CHALKE
‘HOW TO LIVE WITH YOUR PARENTS (FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE)’ ★★
8:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays on WLS-Channel 7
Updated: May 3, 2013 6:16AM
The opening of ABC’s new midseason comedy has a young mother showing up at her parents’ house, daughter in tow.
“I hope this isn’t a bad time for you because it is for me,” says the desperate mom looking to move back in with her parents.
It’s a scene that hits home with the show’s creator, “Knots Landing” actress, comedian and TV producer Claudia Lonow. She said that same line to her mother and stepfather after showing up on their doorstep — young daughter in tow — some 15 years ago.
“It’s a really personal story,” said Lonow, whose daughter flew the family’s collective coop for college in the fall.
“I still live with my parents, and I’ve been living there for 15 years,” she added. “I’ve been working on the show for about 12 and, by the time I got to this point, I decided that a good title would be, ‘How To Live With Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life),’ because that seems like what’s happening to me.”
Sarah Chalke (“Scrubs”) stars as Polly, a high-strung mom who divorced her daughter’s well-intentioned but irresponsible dad, Julian, played by Canadian comic Jon Dore.
Polly basically invites herself to move back in with her eccentric, overly laid-back mother, Elaine (Elizabeth Perkins, “Weeds”), and stepfather, Max (Brad Garrett, “Everybody Loves Raymond”), who are loving and supportive — in their own free-spirited way.
“You’re still the best thing I ever did,” Elaine tells Polly, “and I had sex with a Chicago Bull.”
Devoted as they are to their daughter, Elaine and Max are more than a little sad to see their empty-nest suddenly get more crowded.
“It’s really topical and timely because of the economy,” Chalke said about the show with the cumbersome title that’s not exactly Twitter-friendly. (She suggests the catchy abbreviation “HTLWYPFTROYL.”)
A U.S. Census Bureau report released last year found that the number of adult children living with parents increased 1.2 million to 15.8 million between 2007 and 2010 during the recession. Two-thirds of those adult children were between the ages of 25 and 34.
Most of the show’s cast had the opposite experience growing up.
“I left so quickly — age 13,” said Garrett, admitting that’s an exaggeration. But not by much. “I was bar mitzvahed. Had $800 cash. I got on my bike and pedaled like I had E.T. in the basket. Never looked back.”
Chalke first left her Vancouver home at sweet 16 to do another ABC comedy, “Roseanne,” where she slid into the eldest daughter role after the original actress quit to go to college.
Perkins, who studied theater in Chicago early in her acting career, struck out on her own around the same age.
“They sent me away to boarding school and I never came back,” she said.
Clarke, Perkins, Garrett and Dore — all excellent comedic actors — have a natural, easy rapport with one another. But the so-so pilot, which gets bogged down by Polly’s voiceovers, sells them short. The quality of the material doesn’t measure up to the cast’s talent level.
It’s often tricky to judge a series, especially a comedy, based solely on the first episode. Maybe “HTLWYPFTROYL” just needs some time to settle in, get comfortable and make itself at home.