‘Odd Mom Out’ Series Premiere Review: Bravo’s New Sitcom Is Limp Satire
Ah, how exasperating it must be to inhabit the lowly world of Manhattan’s merely affluent when one’s in-laws reign supreme in the stratosphere of unfathomable wealth and power. Such is the setup for Bravo’s new sitcom, Odd Mom Out, produced, created by and starring Jill Kargman, the actress and author. With more imaginative and biting satire, the premise could actually work, but the premiere demonstrated a trite, yawn-inducing approach — clever one-liners not withstanding — to the subject matter and characters that leaves little hope for the show meaningfully and hilariously tapping into the cultural and socio-economic divisions of New York and the nation as a whole. With the potential to comment on the phenomenon of income inequality, which looks poised to dominate the upcoming political cycle, by satirizing the conflict between members of the 1% and the .1%, the premiere indicates that the show will fall far short of this vital opportunity.
The series premiere introduces us to Jill Weber (Jill Kargman), who is a privileged housewife and mother of three in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, as somewhat of a pariah among her peers because she isn’t quite wealthy enough to have a summer home and isn’t as relentlessly cut off from reality as everyone around her. To make matters worse, her husband, Andy (Andy Buckley), is named partner at his law firm, a major accomplishment that he can’t even enjoy because all anyone wants to talk to him about — including his own mother, Candace (Joanna Cassidy) — is how his brother, Lex (Sean Kleier), is on the front page of every business section for selling his company for millions of dollars. Rounding out the cast is Jill’s sister-in-law, Brooke (Abby Elliott), who is a prototypical rich, airheaded blonde snob with a self-aggrandizing charity called N.A.C.H.O (New Yorkers Against Childhood Obesity – because the “y” is silent), and Jill’s best friend, Vanessa (KK Glick), an ER doctor who acts as the voice of reason in Jill’s life.
Now, this show is not mired in the intolerable, mind-numbing depths of the schlock that constitutes the majority of network and basic cable sitcoms. Kargman makes for a reasonably likable lead and there are some funny and clever lines scattered throughout, but it wasn’t enough to sustain my interest or provoke a real belly laugh. Most of the bits and characters felt too familiar and/or done better elsewhere. If you’re going to trot out the tired cliché of wealthy people with too much money and free time embarking on useless philanthropic endeavors that only exist to serve their own egos and fill out their social calendars, you better have a more interesting idea and execution than that of the premiere’s central plot and conflict.
Also, whenever I saw Cassidy’s domineering matriarch onscreen, I couldn’t help but long for the similar but far funnier and nuanced character played by Jessica Walters in Arrested Development. Now there’s a show that took a dysfunctional family of the 1% and reached comedy heaven within the confines of cable sitcoms by taking outlandish risks in the writer’s room, satirizing Bush and the Iraq War before it was cool, and creating a truly compelling cast of fully realized eccentrics. It’s not fair to expect Odd Mom Out or any show to reach those heights or emulate such absurdist humor, but the writers should take heed that the play-it-safe, satire-lite style of the show makes for dull and predictable characters and plots without any of the social impact of satire that isn’t afraid to go for the jugular now and then.