The tough economy and failed marriages have forced plenty of grown children to move back home with their parents, which becomes the linchpin of ABC’s “We’ll save money on marketing with the long-winded title” sitcom “How to Live With Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life).” Goofy, moderately sweet and too rarely funny, it’s a natural thematic companion to “Modern Family,” if not an especially strong one. On the plus side, a “Life” sentence in this case would merely be the next several years, but enough shows have flopped in the half-hour to temper expectations for a happy ending.
Admittedly, there’s not much new about a slightly uptight kid having to deal with his or her hippy-dippy, flower-powered parents, so the main flourishes in the script by showrunner Claudia Lonow (“Accidentally on Purpose”) are what kind of quirks she gives to Elaine (Elizabeth Perkins) and Max (Brad Garrett), the mother and stepdad of Polly (Sarah Chalke), the single mom who suddenly shows up at their doorstep.
Perkins’ Elaine is “incapable of censoring herself,” Polly notes — prone to saying things like how she’s “very proud of my orgasm” and reminiscing about past sexual conquests. For his part, Max had a bout with testicular cancer, yielding a boatload of jokes about operating with one ball. While the premiere possesses a good-natured vibe, it doesn’t bode well or set the bar particularly high when both Elaine and Max’s most-discussed characteristics are located below the belt.
As for Polly, she’s begun working (bringing along some friends on that front), still dealing with her ex (Jon Dore), beginning to brave the dating scene and trying not to traumatize her daughter (Rachel Eggleston), which includes understandable trepidation about leaving the girl alone with her folks.
There’s something relatable about multigenerational comedy, and the notion of surviving the eccentricities of wacky baby-boomer parents has a certain (if rather obvious) charm.
Still, “How to Live With Your Parents” brings such familiar qualities to almost everything about it as to rely heavily on the goodwill associated with its central trio of comedy pros, and while they unabashedly dive right in, that can still be a lot to ask — of them, and an audience.
ABC is hardly the first network to struggle with the task of developing a sitcom worthy of something like prime “Modern Family”-adjacent real estate, but at least in tone, this entry from the same studio, 20th Century Fox Television, comes a little closer than some other recent tenants.
That said, there’s a sizable qualitative gap between the two shows, meaning it will take some good fortune — and stronger execution — if Polly’s new living arrangement is going to be more than temporary.
How to Live With Your Parents (for the Rest of Your Life)
(Series; ABC, Wed. April 3, 9:30 p.m.)
Filmed in Los Angeles by Hot Lava Girl and Imagine Television in association with Twentieth Century Fox Television. Executive producers, Claudia Lonow, Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo; producers, Ken Ornstein, Mark Grossan; director, Julie Anne Robinson; writer, Lonow; camera, Michael Trim; production designers, Randy Ser, Greg Grande; editors, Janet Ashikaga, Viet Nguyen; casting, Susan Edelman. 30 MIN.
With: Sarah Chalke, Elizabeth Perkins, Brad Garrett, Jon Dore, Rachel Eggleston, Stephanie Hunt. 30 MIN.