The opening images in the first episode of “The Mick” are of a woman careening out of control. Looking like she’s coming off a three-day bender, Mackenzie, a.k.a. Mickey (Kaitlin Olson), brazenly tears through a grocery store, swiping food and sampling products left and right. She doesn’t pay for anything and leaves a trail of destruction in her wake — which may lead one to believe that Mickey has a lot in common with the selfish and goofy Sweet Dee, the character Olson has played for many seasons on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
She does not. Unfortunately, “The Mick” soon drains Mickey of most of her rebellious or distinctive qualities, and those that remain are rarely interesting. In the main, the potentially reckless woman of that opening scene quickly morphs into a fairly standard semi-naughty aunt, just as the show itself swiftly falls into the predictable rhythms of an uninspired family comedy.
She ends up caring for her nephews and niece when Mickey’s sister and her husband are arrested for tax evasion, which is a bit of plotting wrapped up swiftly in the first few minutes of the pilot. The kids, who live in a sprawling Connecticut mansion, don’t view the unemployed, uncultured Mickey as an authority figure worth taking seriously, at least at first. It’s not an unrealistic response from these oblivious children, given their aunt’s laissez faire attitude and occasionally irresponsible behavior, but everything else about the kids is contrived and grating, especially when it comes to the two teenagers. (Hijinks from the youngest sibling are mainly played for cute-kid laughs, even though many fail to land.)
Behavior that the show appears to think is funny more often reads as annoying, and when the kids act out due to their ongoing parental abandonment issues, none of those moments are developed enough to carry any true character-development weight. Their snooty, condescending behavior isn’t funny, and the episode that introduces a grandmother who is even worse doesn’t make the kids any more sympathetic.
“The Mick” also can’t decide on a tone; it frequently veers between moments that are apparently meant to be heartwarming and those that are a bit more disturbing in their premises. One episode features a kid’s birthday party, while another includes the assault of a disabled character. They don’t feel like they’re from the same show, and the latter moment is as abrupt as it is unfunny. “The Mick” could be a very dark, black comedy or the kind of sharp but warm family sitcom that ABC excels at, but this awkward blend is neither.
The show’s laziness extends beyond its one-dimensional characters to the writing. “The Mick’s” comedic mindset includes the idea that birth-control pills make whoever is taking them hysterically moody, a “joke” that one episode beats into the ground without ever extracting anything laugh-inducing out of that tired premise.
Viewers are also expected to find it funny when the family’s Latina maid, Alba (Carla Jimenez), gets stranded in the middle of a pool, or when Mickey drugs her without her knowledge or consent. Mickey doesn’t make Alba wear her uniform all the time and lets her hang out in the non-servant areas of the house, but she also refers to her as “mine.” The paltry attempts to avoid Latina-maid stereotypes never add up to much, and ultimately, the patronizing and cliched treatment of the character mimics the kids’ entitled attitude toward Mickey.
There are ways to satirize the lifestyles of the rich and famous via half-hour family comedies, and a show doesn’t have to be on the level of “Arrested Development” to succeed. And of course, a clash between the one percent and a working-class character could be of some value in these times.
However, “The Mick” is too often simply shrill, and its occasional attempts to drag the storytelling in sentimental directions are unconvincing. The fish-out-of-water elements and the dearth of self-awareness on display — Mackenzie’s selfishness meeting the kids’ self-indulgent snootiness — could have been funny, had there been anything distinctive about the family or their dilemmas. But in contrast to that jittery, promising opening sequence, this comedy is ultimately sophomoric and superficial. If nothing else, it’s certainly not a memorable vehicle for Olson’s solid comedic skills.