Is it possible to ever be a successful adult without your parents supporting you in one way or another? What happens when your mother ends up becoming your roommate by pure accident? That’s part of the premise behind CBS’ new comedy “The Millers,” which had one man have his nightmare come true after a surprise visit from his parents. Sure, the results may be somewhat familiar, but the cast was still able to draw laughs from the even lackluster jokes.
“The Millers” followed Nathan Miller (Will Arnett) who became recently divorced and was dealing with some professional disappointment with his job as a local news reporter. His best friend Ray (JB Smoove) managed to persuade him to get back into the singles scene and try to move on from his divorce. Unfortunately, Nathan’s parents have decided to come visit him and his sister Debbie (Jayma Mays) at the worst possible time. He never told them about his divorce and was afraid of how they were going to react. When Carol (Margo Martindale) and Tom Miller (Beau Bridges) showed up unannounced on Nathan’s doorstep, he was forced to tell them about the divorce. He wasn’t surprised when his mother got very upset, but Nathan got the bigger shock when his father decided to divorce his mother after 43 years of marriage. He was even more horrified when Carol suddenly became his roommate and made it impossible for him to have the carefree single life that he desperately wanted. Instead, he was forced to have to spend even more quality time with his mother than he felt that he needed. Meanwhile, Tom moved in with Nathan’s sister Debbie and her family. He was also driving them crazy with his tendency to be forgetful sometimes, which caused a few near brushes with the house being destroyed. Nathan and Debbie decided to join forced whenever possible to find a way to peacefully co-exist with theit parents, which hasn’t been easy for everyone involved. Will they be able to help guide their parents into living on their own? Will they end up having to take care of them for the rest of their lives?
In terms of questions, the show didn’t ask too many, but the biggest one was whether the Miller family will implode from all of the change on their lives. Of course, a show needs to succeed by creating conflict to draw viewers in and manage to make them relate to a program that attached a laugh track at the end of each joke. Like most sitcoms, each conflict lasted until the end of the episode when it was wrapped up in a nice big bow and preparing for the next hilariously embarassing situation to come across the small screen. The show has excelled so far in exploring the complex relationship between Arnett’s Nathan and Martindale’s Carol as they began to understand each other in ways they never did before. A recent episode made both Arnett and Martindale delve into what made their characters tick. Arnett’s Nathan was afraid to disappoint his mother, while Martindale’s Carol revealed that she would always be proud of him no matter what he did. It was a tender moment that concluded with a laugh as Carol lashed out at her son’s therapist to convey that he wouldn’t be returning to therapy anytime soon. The rest of the supporting cast were doing a valiant job, but their material wasn’t as strong as Martindale and Arnett’s scenes. Bridge’s Tom was reduced to a supporting player who always had scenes that so far turned the character into a modern day Mr. Magoo. Another episode had Tom using Nathan’s old cellphone as a tool to get his father motivated for a while, but he never realized that his father was never going to change. Bridges managed to provide with a level of credibility that made him more like Peter Boyle from “Everybody Loves Raymond” and not as an individual who couldn’t take care of himself if left to his own devices. The show also has to find a way to better incorporate Mays’ Debbie into the stories, because she appeared as if she belonged on another show instead of this one. Only time will tell if that will change or not.
As for breakout performances, Martindale and Arnett led the pack as two very different characters who were going on a very similiar journey into being single once again. Martindale embodied as more than just a meddlesome mother, even though she drew big laughs in an episode where she used Nathan’s navigation system as a way to find that he was seeing a therapist. She persuaded multiple customer service representatives by pulling the devoted mother card to get them to help her, which worked as she found the information that she was looking for. Martindale proved that she could also balance the dramatic aspects of the show because of her work on the second season of “Justified,” which earned her an Emmy. She made viewers relate to her character, even when she was at her worst, such as reading her son’s therapy notes to find out why he was seeing a therapist in the first place. Martindale also managed to play Carol as an accidental comedian as she entered Nathan’s party sleepwalking and doing some rather hiliarious things without knowing it. Arnett, on the other hand, had the challenging task of going beyond his usual comedic antics and trying to place the straight man sometimes against Martindale’s flashy Carol. He excelled for the most part, but he was better when Nathan embraced the madness every once in a while. Arnett’s best scene was when he did a dance with Martindale that was supposed to resemble the one from “Dirty Dancing,” but the results were a lot more humorous than sweet. The scene was so awkward to watch that it was worth the discomfort in the end. Hopefully, the show will continue to find the right balance for Arnett to play calm or completely unhinged whenever the scene called for it. He seemed to have found the perfect show for him to headline after a few missteps in the past. It’s too early to say if that will happen or not, but episodes have indicated that the show will be around for a while.
“The Millers” premiered on October 3rd and airs Thursdays at 8:30 pm on CBS.
Verdict: Martindale and Arnett helped to earn major laughs as they earned them at their own expense, but they also managed to thrown in some tender moments to keep viewers tuned in.
TV Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)