Multicam sitcoms with a laugh track generally don’t sit well with me, despite growing up on a diet of favourites such as Get Smart, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Brady Bunch, Seinfeld, Frasier, Will and Grace, and countless more.
Now I struggle not to wince at the obligatory laugh at the end of every third line of dialogue.
But I persisted with The Millers and the pay-off was not so bad. Yes the audience is still too eager to laugh at every mugging or over-the-top line, but the are delivered with such skill and timing that I have to give credit where it’s due.
Central to all of this is Margo Martindale (Justified, The Americans) as Carol, matriarch of the dysfunctional Miller clan (aren’t they just always dysfunctional these days?).
Martindale isn’t exactly the star of this comedy, that falls to Will Arnett, but she surely steals the show.
Arnett plays her son roving news reporter Nathan, who has split from his wife and colleague. But he hasn’t had the temerity to tell his parents until 3 months after the event when his parents come to stay.
The shock experienced by his parents is nothing compared to the decision that unfolds. Inspired by his son’s action, his father Tom (Beau Bridges) decides he has had enough of being hen-pecked for 43 years and moves in with daughter Debbie (Jayma Mays) and husband Adam (Nelson Franklin). Carol subsequently moves in with Nathan. Think Mother and Son, $#!T My Dad Says and more.
Jayma Mays steps up the comedy from her sweetly role in Glee, but is overshadowed by the experience of Martindale, Bridges and Arnett, while Franklin serves as something of a straight man.
Arnett is likeable as the newly-single if somewhat vain media man, now seen by prospective dates as still living with his mother.
Bridges is perfectly dry as the hopeless father incapable of looking after himself and understanding technological devices such as the electric telephone.
But it is Martindale who drives the comic situations as the over-bearing mother, swamping her family with affection and killer emotional moves. The fact she gets to do it through physical performance makes it much more satisfying (she could have made a perfect Hyacinth Bucket for America).
With director James Burrows and creator Greg Garcia behind this, I should’t be so surprised that it kinda works. It’s hardly sophisticated comedy, and the laugh track is almost intolerable, but The Millers aren’t so bad once you get to know them.
The Millers screens 7pm and 7:30pm Sunday on TEN.