By Grant Playter
Premiering at the start of 2017, “The Mick,” starring Kaitlin Olson of the cult-comedy “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” has had eight episodes to find it’s footing. Created by brothers Dave and Josh Chernin, who worked as writers alongside Olson on “Sunny,” the show both draws comparison to its bleak, spiritual predecessor while struggling to find its own identity.
The show’s premise is that Olson, who plays sleazy conwoman Mickey Murphy, is recruited into watching her rich sister’s children Sabrina (Sofia Black-D’elia), Chip (Thomas Barbusca) and Ben (Jack Stanton) after a run-in with law enforcement has her and her husband fleeing the country.
Rounding out the principal cast is newly liberated maid and caretaker Alba (Carla Jimenez) and Olson’s equally sleazy, if somewhat good-natured, on-again, off-again boyfriend Jimmy (Scott MacArthur).
As one might expect of it’s crew’s pedigree, the show’s tone is very dark. The principal characters are not particularly good people, and it’s a testament to the actors’ performances and charisma that we’re able to find ourselves somewhat sympathetic to their lives.
The show seems to take a gleeful delight in bringing forth conventional sitcom tropes, such as a birthday party or imaginary friend, before savagely and thoroughly subverting the audience’s expectations in extreme ways.
Olson and D’elia in particular have an amazing onscreen chemistry, trading casual barbs at each other whenever given a chance. I find myself looking forward to their interactions because they elevate any scene they share.
D’elia’s performance as a snarky and smart teenager who has a tendency be a bit reckless meshes incredibly well with Olson’s haphazard, dim-witted, but sometimes pseudo-wise character.
Alba is also worth noting, as she seems to be undergoing a slow evolution from reticent participant in the main cast’s debaucherous activities to an active participant. By the end of the seventh episode, she’s not only poorly driving the family’s expensive cars, but has 5-year-old Ben burn it down in order to cover up the fact that it got keyed, too.
From ingesting a balloon filled with heroin to having his inhaler extorted while having an asthma attack, Ben’s frequent misfortunes is good for a few laughs an episode, but is still fairly one note.
Chip treads the clichés of pubescent awkward teenager, and while the angle of having the confidence of a rich kid is a somewhat new twist on that formula, it still feels somewhat worn. His shrieking outbursts at a befuddled audience in a given episode have some potential, but the performance seems a bit muted compared to the outlandish events surrounding him.
In its eight episodes, the show seems to be undergoing an identity crisis. There is an emotional tinge to the show regarding the importance of family, particularly with Chip’s frequent bouts of melancholy about his disappeared parents.
However, any emotional resonance one may get from these is undercut by the general tone of the show and the derision the characters have for each other — it’s like trying to sympathize with a caricature.
There needs to be a balance between the outlandish and grounded moments or else one will overpower the other and dilute the overall product.
“The Mick” is about as outlandish as one would expect given the premise, and it’s deeply funny in a way Fox may have not expected. While there have been some missteps along the way, the core premise of the show and the cast’s strong performances make it one of the best shows on this season and definitely worth checking out.