Memo to Fox: A series likely to be slapped around by critics probably ought not to lead with its chin by using “hate” in the title. But hey, live and learn, which is more charitable than what can be said about the divorced moms in “I Hate My Teenage Daughter,” whose painful high-school memories are exacerbated by raising beautiful “mean girl” daughters. Having seen two episodes, a premise that might harbor feature potential plays like an irritating whine — and ought to test the good will of its “X Factor” lead-in.
“Why are they so mean to us?” protest moms Annie (played by “My Name Is Earl’s” Jaime Pressly) and Nikki (Katie Finneran)about their 14-year-old divas, Sophie (Kristi Lauren) and Mackenzie (Aisha Dee), respectively.
Both dads are also still in the picture, with Nikki newly divorced from Gary (“The Wire’s” Chad L. Coleman) and Annie having long since split from band member Matt (Eric Sheffer Stevens), who has a bad case of Peter Pan syndrome. Still, her real secret crush is on his brother Jack (“Desperate Housewives'” Kevin Rahm), and within their interplay actually resides the germ of hope for a better show.
As is, “I Hate My Teenage Daughter” derives the lion’s share of its comedy from Pressly’s boundless energy and the amusing aspects of her character’s back story — having been raised under such a strict religious upbringing, we’re told, she “dressed like a sister wife” or a character from “Little House on the Prairie.” At least that offers some explanation why the otherwise-lovely mom is so eager to live vicariously through her daughter, whose attendance (or not) at a school dance after misbehaving provides the premiere’s wispy plot line.
Created by Sherry Bilsing-Graham and Ellen Kreamer, the series actually possesses reality-based underpinnings in parents’ confusion dealing with today’s sexualized, multitasking teens, as Annie labors to keep Sophie from going to school resembling a call girl. By contrast, Nikki is so desperate for her daughter’s approval she can barely mount any resistance.
That foundation, however, pretty much crumbles amid the broad tone, constant squabbling and improbabilities, such as having all the exes and kids hang out together. Nor does the show fully embrace the potential in its premise — the girls as modern-day “bad seeds” — apparently so it can fall back on limp snippets of sentiment.
“I’m so bored!” Mackenzie whines in the second half-hour, while being forced to participate in an interminable family game night.
Out of the mouths of babes.