The Greens are America’s first family of dysfunction. Mom and dad haven’t had sex since the Bush Administration. The valedictorian daughter is poised to forego college (it’s a karma issue). The eldest son is boffing his bimbos under mom and dad’s roof and has mastered the fine art of spitting into his own mouth. The youngest son lives in mortal fear that he will die without first seeing “a real boob.” Sounds like a perfectly lame cast of characters. Yet somehow, Fox’s dramatic comedy “Get Real” manages to feel sassy, hip and provocative.
The question remains, how many people will notice? The show will have to carve a niche against heavy competition Wednesday nights at 9: ABC’s “The Drew Carey Show” and NBC’s heavily buzzed new drama “The West Wing,” not to mention the WB teen grabber “Roswell High.”
A bravura triumph of style over any conventional definition of substance, “Get Real” is the most stylistically ambitious family hour since … well, OK: “thirtysomething.” It carries that same combination of sophistication, angst and wit while adding a healthy dash of self-aware irony to the stew. The pilot packs in more chaos and crises in 48 minutes than many families experience in 48 years.
Exec producers Clyde Phillips and Scott Winant manage — via Phillips’ clever opening teleplay and Winant’s canny direction — to take overused devices — like having the actors address the audience directly — and give them a lively spin. Phillips and Winant dare viewers to dismiss their show as so much hypersensitive blather, using the characters to satirize the show’s zeitgeist via the script’s liberal pop-culture referencing. They seem to be saying, “Sure, we’re a ‘Dawson’s Creek’/’My So-Called Life’ knockoff. But we’re going to dazzle you anyway.”
And for the most part, they do, thanks in no small measure to “Get Real’s” bright, attractive cast. Jon Tenney and Debrah Farentino star as Mitch and Mary Green, a couple who became parents in their teens and have seen their marriage grow hopelessly stale.
This is a particularly bad place to be when you have three deliriously self-absorbed kids in high school. Meghan (a sizzling perf from Anne Hathaway, who looks like a pouty-lipped cross between Liv Tyler and Claire Danes) is a 17-year-old with an identity crisis. Oddball middle-child Cameron (Eric Christian Olsen) seems to stumble through life in a noxious, copulating haze. And 15-year-old family baby Kenny (scene-stealing work from Jesse Eisenberg) develops an unrequited crush on a different female pretty much every hour.
Witnessing this grim fallout is Mary’s mother Elizabeth (Christina Pickles), who seems a bit out of place depicting a middle-aged pillar of sage wisdom. What saves the production as a whole, is its giddy irreverence and sharp observations about the ways that family members at different stages of life endure their distinctive brands of hell.
Director of photography Roy H. Wagner and his lensing team infuse “Get Real” with a distinctive look. And Winant’s zesty script gives us an off-kilter world in which adolescents are left slack-jawed at the notion that Paul Newman ever had a career apart from making salad dressing.
And as Meghan snidely shoots down a chesty homewrecker in her midst, she is moved to utter the line of the year : “My God, you could hide Anne Frank in that cleavage!” It surely isn’t every day that a legendary witness to the Holocaust is reduced to a boob joke. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the Fox we have come to know and love.