The Millers Series Premiere Review: Everybody Loves Will Arnett

By Tim Surette

Oct 04, 2013

The Millers S01E01: "Pilot"

When The Millers was announced earlier this year, it came with a mixture of emotions. Will Arnett! Yay! Multi-camera comedy! Boo! Margo Martindale! Yay! Another parents moving back in with their kids setup! Boo! Creator Greg Garcia! Yay! Laugh track! Boo! In case you couldn't tell from that back and forth of cheers and jeers, the cast and crew involved in The Millers had us excited, but the dated premise and track record of the format left us worried. 

Things haven't changed much after viewing the pilot episode, and The Millers is reasonably mediocre for it. I'd call that a win, though, given the heaps of turds that the networks have churned out so far. The Millers isn't great, but it's a lot better than the atrocities that are Super Fun NightWe Are MenDadsWelcome to the Familyand Sean Saves the World. If I hadn't suffered through previewing and reviewing those over the last two weeks, I might have taken The Millers a notch down, but with Sean Hayes getting his in the face with a bag of chicken as comparison, The Millers is totally okay!

A lot of the pull towards okay comes from The Millers' stellar cast. Will Arnett plays Nathan, a local news field reporter keeping his divorce a secret from his parents. Margo Martindale gives comedy a go–after a pair of excellent turns on Justified and The Americans–as Nathan's mom Carol. Beau Bridges plays Nathan's oblivious dad Tom, Jayma Mays plays his sister Debbie, Nelson Franklin plays Debbie's husband Adam, and JB Smoove plays Nathan's cameraman and buddy Ray. Top that off with My Name is Earl and Raising Hope creator Greg Garcia at the helm and wow! You've got yourself a fantastic group to make a television show!

But then you've got the premise, and it all felt a bit tired and beneath several of these stars who have been part of really cutting-edge stuff. During a visit from Carol and Tom, Nathan revealed that he got a divorce, and that empowered Tom to ask for his own divorce after 43 years of marriage and *boom* The Millers became fairly stock. Naturally, Tom decided to live with Debbie and Adam, and Carol stayed put at Nathan's making The Millers another show where parents moving in with their kids became the flint that sparked the comedy flame. 

The Millers is also a CBS multi-camera comedy with a laugh track and all, which usually means that people like me will automatically deduct points. Yes, I'm guilty of multi-camera comedy bigotry, but it's based on experience and recent years have not been kind to that genre. However, I'm about to admit something I probably shouldn't but whatever, no one will read this and I can pretend it didn't happen. Here we go: I did not hate Everybody Loves Raymond! And that show was a multi-camera family comedy with a laugh track and all. The Millers reminds me of Everybody Loves Raymond because it has all the same pieces. They both have great casts, loving families that work behind a wall of insults, and uhhh, a great cast again. Obviously The Millers didn't match the standards of Everybody Loves Raymond after just the pilot, but I see a similar quality ceiling for The Millers if everything goes its way. Of course if they don't, The Millers could be just as bad as the comedies listed way above.

I wouldn't say the humor of The Millers is great, but it didn't make me bang my head against the wall in an effort to gain temporary amnesia, either. I liked Jeff Bridges as the incompetent Tom (his character is almost identical to Raymond's Frank, played by Peter Boyle) who shows resignation to not understanding the modern technology of remote controls yet still had the strength and determination to get a divorce because he thought it would make him happy. And there were some short absurd moments that worked well, like when Carol, doped up on sleeping pills, grabbed a spatula to eat ice cream (though the potency of that visual joke withered away when they talked about it). Or when Nathan was on an assignment and asked the kid if he had learned his lesson after being publicly shamed into wearing a sign that said he had a potty mouth, and the kid responded with a mouthful of expletives. Not great, but not terrible either! At least they weren't lazy sex jokes!

But then there were also lazy sex jokes. And the much talked-about string of fart jokes from Emmy-winner Margo Martindale. I think the fart jokes were softened up a bit from the original pilot, but though they remained, there's something less stupid about flatulence humor when it comes from Martindale and Arnett. It smells a little bit better. And that's what elevated The Millers above a lot of its competition.

So yeah, The Millers has that sweet cast that makes everything more palatable and some elements that even they can't save, but overall, it's not the disaster it could have been. At its best, it could be another Everybody Loves Raymond. At worst, we watch the Best of Gob YouTube videos to forget it ever happened. After the pilot, The Millers sits somewhere between.

What did YOU think of The Millers?

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  • rasa_radz Oct 05, 2013

    'I liked Jeff Bridges as the incompetent Tom' - maybe edit that to Beau.

  • hairy_gizmo Oct 05, 2013

    Love the cast of this show and while it didn't immediately tick a must see box it did make me snigger once - which is always a hopeful sign for any comedy pilot - and makes it worth a few episodes to see how it shapes up. I was not one of those people who loved Raymond and if it goes that way I will be out Will/Beau/Margo notwithstanding.

  • JT_Kirk Oct 05, 2013

    So I ended up watching this and suffering through every minute. Arnett and Martindale are utterly wasted here and don't really have the right feel for multi-camera format sitcoms, they feel like they're bored and treading water. Jayma Mays' character and her husband feel entirely superfluous and dull. JB Smoove's character is generic and given nothing funny to do. And the premise feels constricting and lame and more than a bit contrived. Ultimately, I wouldn't want to watch this again, and I cannot imagine too many others would either, there's very little offered in the setup and the writing to draw viewers in. It's an utter waste of talents.

  • MarlboroMagpi Oct 04, 2013

    I loved the pilot and this is from someone seldom watch comedies and sitcoms. Perhaps because I am have not watch tons of Modern Family, I found this one quite nice. I have watched the trailer and already saw some of the jokes. Yet it did made me laugh once again when I was watching this.

    I absolutely loved Margo Martindale. That woman proved she could do anything. I just hoped she will be back in The Americans. She is probably the most hardworking elderly lady on TV !

    I have skipped Super Fun Night, We Are Men, Dads, and Sean Saves the World.

    I have watched Michael J Fox Show, Moms, Trophy wife, the crazy ones and The Millers. So far all of them did enough for me to continue watching. I enjoyed The Millers the most.

  • dbrahm Oct 04, 2013

    Definitely not good, not funny, not well written, but well acted. My DVR cried.

  • firedrakes Oct 04, 2013

    i dvr this and kept skiping forward

  • smorbie Oct 04, 2013

    Nah, not watching. But I do have a question. What is the hatred for multi-camera comedies. I don't want to see everything shot like the Dunder Mifflin documentary.

  • ted2332 Oct 04, 2013

    I will give it a go because of Margo Martindale.
    I loved her in The Riches, Justified & The Americans so I will trust her judgment on this too.

  • JT_Kirk Oct 04, 2013

    I haven't watched it yet, it's sitting on my DVR waiting for me to decide. Honestly, this review doesn't tempt me, there's a lot of "let's make a meal out of garbage from the fancy restaurant" about this review. IGN's review of the aired pilot was brutal, a 2.5, so I am tempted to delete without viewing.

    Everybody Loves Raymond worked from the outset where this does not, and the reason seems to be the driving forces behind each - Ray Romano and an incredibly talented creative staff drove his show to a specific vision from the start; while The Millers seems to be a network vehicle with no passion or vision driving it at all, just throw Greg Garcia at it and hope it sticks. The Millers just seems like throwing money and talent willy nilly at a problem and hoping for the best, no integrity ultimately produces nothing worthwhile.

  • canine Oct 04, 2013

    What a recommendation from Tim: It sucks less than the other comedies this season :-)

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