The Millers Series Premiere Review: Everybody Loves Will Arnett
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 Night, We Are Men, Dads, Welcome to the Family, and 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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