Last night saw the debut of I Hate My Teenage Daughter, an enigmatically titled new Fox sitcom starring Jaime Pressly and Katie Finneran as a pair of fawning, clueless single suburban moms, who are struggling to keep control of their vain, vile, vindictive daughters (played by Kristi Lauren and Aisha Dee, respectively). In this pilot episode, the timorous matriarchs learn from the school’s ludicrously mean and bitchy principle (Wendi McLendon-Covey) that their daughters have been accused of locking a wheelchair-bound boy in the girl’s bathroom for two hours… and much hand-wringing follows, as the deficient duo fret over how to punish their odious offspring without incurring their tetchy teenage wrath.
If I had a giant rubber stamp in the shape of the word “FEH!”, I would be stamping it on this show right now. There were a few chuckles here and there, I admit, but by and large the script seems to have been written by someone with a very dim view of humanity in general, as their cartoonish caricatures spend approximately eighty per cent of the episode sniping, sulking, or straight-up arguing with each other! You’ll often hear people talk about “hang out” shows and movies, where the fun comes from spending time with fun, likeable, interesting and engaging characters… well, this is the total opposite of that. It seems to be aimed squarely at eliciting a schadenfreude response from its audience… and I don’t have a lot of time for that kind of comedy, personally. To paraphrase Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion (which I can’t help thinking must have been an influence, somewhere along the line) this is a bad show with an ugly heart.
As for the cast… it’s just depressing to see so many talented women wasting their time on this buffoonery. I was never a big fan of My Name Is Earl, but even I know that Pressly totally owned that show, and she totally kicked ass in movies like Not Another Teen Movie and DOA: Dead or Alive… and it’s sad to see her so completely neutered here. I’m not really familiar with Finneran, but she really throws herself into the role, and clearly isn’t afraid to get her hands (and chin) dirty for laughs, so I have to admire her spirit, even as I tut over the way her character behaves. Much the same goes for McLendon-Covey, who really should be able to find better roles than this off the back of Bridesmaids, surely? Rather reassuringly, Lauren and Dee seem far more comfortable playing the sweeter, kinder side of their characters (the side they only show when they want to trick their mothers, apparently), than they are delivering crushing put-downs… which is a credit to them as human beings, but probably won’t help them sell this hateful, hateful show. Still they’re both young and ridiculously pretty, so presumably they have many more rewarding projects ahead of them.