Saturday, December 3, 2011

I Hate My Teenage Daughter - "Pilot"

     FOX premiered I Hate My Teenage Daughter this week. In the "Pilot," Annie (Jaime Pressly, My Name is Earl) and Nikki (Katie Finneran, The Inside, Wonderfalls) are shocked to learn that their daughters, Sophie (Kristi Lauren) and MacKenzie (Aisha Dee, The Saddle Club), locked a handicap kid in the bathroom. When Annie's ex, Matt (Eric Sheffer Stevens, As the World Turns), Matt's brother, Jack (Kevin Rahm, Desperate Housewives, Mad Men), and Nikki's ex, Gary (Chad Coleman, The Wire), imply that the moms won't do anything about it, Annie gets it into her head to ban the girls from attending their first high school dance. A teary apology and explanation makes the moms have a change of heart, but when that is exposed as a lie, the parents go for the next best punishment: public humiliation. 

     I Hate My Teenage Daughter has a lot going for it. The concept, that Annie and Nikki were geeks, so they give their daughters everything they didn't have, only to see the girls turn into the type of mean bullies the moms hated, is interesting. Finneran is a fine actress, and Pressly is a comedy queen. Add to the mix Rahm and Coleman, and it's sure to be a hit. Plus, while the mean girl drama is prevalent on TV today, it's refreshing to see it told from the mother's perspective.

     Except it isn't. Not even close. The "Pilot" of I Hate My Teenager Daughter may just be the worst one so far this year, and in the last few years. There are a lot of problems, but the biggest is that Annie is the only good, fully developed character. Pressly struggle mightily to save the poor writing by giving some real layer to Annie. But she is surrounded by Finneran, who is reduced to mere slapstick goofiness, and Dee and Lauren, who come across as highly interchangeable stereotypes. If the series has any chance of doing well, all three other females need a serious make over, quick!

     Also, while divorce rates are high in America, and raising mean girls with women who are co-dependent on their best friend is surely tough, how come Annie and Nikki are both divorced? Gary seems like a decent father, so it's weird when nothing that went wrong between he and Nikki is expounded upon at all in "Pilot." Matt seems like a clueless loser, so Annie's split from him is more acceptable. However, the arrangement takes a turn when Annie clearly has feelings for Matt's brother. Yes, a woman could easily be attracted to two siblings. But the ick factor involved in wanting to date one's ex-brother-in-law trumps whatever sweet romance may lie in store, even if Jack acts as a better dad to Sophie than her actual one.

     The plot of the "Pilot" is actually pretty good, and sets up the series fine. It's culmination, when the girls are exposed as manipulative liars and the mothers dance terribly at the function is perfect. Too bad it's too little, too late. If I Hate My Teenager Daughter is to be good, there needs to be some growth in Nikki, and a determined effort by Annie and Nikki to fix the obvious problems with their daughter. Despite the bad "Pilot," and it is really bad, this series deserves a second chance because there is enormous potential with highly relatable material. Unfortunately, judging by most network television, it will squander such a chance.

     I Hate My Teenage Daughter airs Wednesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on FOX (for now).

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