Tuesday, 26 July 2016

ABC Pilot Previews: American Housewife


ABC’s new sitcom Speechless has all the features which have made the current crop of ABC comedies resonate with audiences and critics. It focuses on a family, it has a great supporting cast including the child actors, and of course it unveils a particular story which may not have been represented on primetime television before.

The single camera comedy was created by Scott Silveri and is co-executive produced by Christine Gernon, Jake Kasdan and Melvin Mar and hails from 20th Century Fox Television/ABC Studios. The show was originally set up at Fox but was shifted to ABC last development season. Networks now tend to greenlight and renew shows which are produced from their sister studios (such as ABC/ABC Studios) rather than outside studios due to in-season stacking rights however, ABC gave the show the green light and gave it a plum Wednesday slot which shows the confidence it has in the show. 

The series stars Minnie Driver as Maya DiMeo who is the mother of the DiMeo family. She is portrayed as a take charge mother with an outlandish but no-holds-barred attitude. Some may see her as being overprotective and maybe a little high strung but she wants the best for her children, especially J.J. DiMeo, their teenage son with special needs (Micah Fowler). J.J. is the heart of the show and gives the show its unique voice despite him being… Speechless! J.J. has a severe case of Cerebral Palsy and is confined to a wheelchair and is nonverbal, which is used to create many humorous moments and situations in the show, such as the high speed van scene. J.J.’s condition also leads to the Maya trying to find a school which best suits his special needs which is easier said than done. Luckily for J.J. and the rest of the family, Kenneth (Cedric Yarbrough) a groundskeeper at Bronxville high who meets Maya during her rant about a wheelchair ramp which doubles as a garbage dumpster. He soon becomes J.J.’s confidante and friend by the end of the pilot and their relationship and natural bond is both heart-warming and funny to watch on screen. The rest of the family includes Maya’s husband Jimmy (John Ross Bowie) who seems to be smarter than he thinks, Dylan (Kyla Kenedy) a no-nonsense athletic teen and her younger brother Ray (Mason Cook, from NBC’s About A Boy which also starred Minnie Driver as his mother!).

Speechless fits in well with the ABC brand and will be a great companion to The Goldbergs, Modern Family and Black-Ish. It shouldn’t have a hard time finding an audience although it may have trouble maintaining an audience if the show fails to ensure it balances the dramatic moments with the comedic moments which in the pilot, may be too few for some.

American Housewife 

American Housewife is the only new comedy ABC are adding to their newly curated two hour Tuesday comedy block. 

The series is a fairly conventional single-camera family comedy created and written by Sarah Dunn and co-executive produced by TV mega producer Aaron Kaplan. The show stars Katy Mixon as Katie Otto, who is described as an average wife and mother who tries to stand out among the more attractive and better looking housewives and their privileged children in her hometown of Westport, Connecticut. Based on the pilot episode, I assume the series is supposed to be a humorous satire of American suburban culture and based on the rather dull title, it will explore what it means to be an American Housewife. The supporting cast includes Diedrich Bader as Jeff Otto, who has great chemistry with his on-screen wife although some of the child actors seem to be miscast or misdirected. Katy Mixon is a likeable lead and ensues a natural quirkiness although;,the writing of the show is rather generic and not nearly as funny or unexpected as Suburgatory, which successfully found its own unique and weird way to satirise American suburban culture. Hopefully, American Housewife eventually manages to find a unique voice amongst ABC’s array of family comedies.

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