Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Cute, Heartwarming Ensemble Comedies Still Exist! Exhibit A is Single Parents [Contributor: Jenn]

(Image credit: ABC)

I'm a sucker for an ensemble sitcom.

Case in point: my favorite comedies of all-time include Parks and Recreation, Friends, Scrubs, and New Girl. The Office is in my list of favorites too, and How I Met Your Mother (before its disastrous finale). The trickiest thing about an ensemble comedy is that the characters — while needing to function as a group — need to have enough autonomy to be able to carry scenes alone and with any other character in the ensemble. The ensemble is both, in a sense, its own character and also a collection of separate ones.

A true ensemble comedy mirrors real-life, reflecting the fact that we have inclinations to gravitate toward certain people in our friend groups more than others, while also recognizing that part of the reason a friend group exists is because the group itself — no matter how close an individual is to any one person in the group — manages to click, somehow.

Single Parents is already off to a great start with its pursuit of becoming a true ensemble. (ABC has a habit of cancelling my favorite comedies, so hopefully this little sitcom manages to stay around long enough to fully explore how funny everyone on the show can be — and that includes the kids!) In addition to its talented cast, at Single Parents' helm as its creators are Liz Meriwether and J.J. Philbin of New Girl fame. As someone who absolutely loved New Girl and found its comedy to be hilarious and delightful, a pilot written by those two women — and a series created by them — is right up my alley.

The plot of the series? Will Cooper (Taran Killam) and his daughter Sophie (Marlow Barkley) are new to school. Will is a single parent and he's... well, overzealous in throwing his entire life into caring for his child. Even though he's new, Will suddenly takes up the mantle of room parent and he's pretty intense about it. That doesn't sit well with the single parent crew in our series, and they decide that they need to do everything they can to avoid serving Will's agenda.

Angie (Leighton Meester) serves as sort of a "room parent destroyer," and a quasi-ringleader for our ragtag group of single parents. Then there's Douglas (Brad Garrett), a politically conservative dermatologist who really doesn't do emotion or affection. Poppy, an outspoken feminist, (Kimrie Lewis) serves as the heart of the group who watches out for everyone and isn't afraid to drop in tough love on the adults when necessary. And as the newest member of the single parents club, Miggy (Jake Choi) is just trying to figure out to be a 20-year old and also raise a baby.

Within the first episode alone, we get some solid Will/Angie and Douglas/Poppy stories, and that leads me to believe that the show recognizes the ability to play around with groups and pairings within the ensemble to see what clicks and where there is story or depth. Single Parents doesn't just succeed because of the talent of its adults, but also of its children. On shows with kids, it's often easy for writers to make them props or background actors; kids are unpredictable, after all. But Single Parents utilizes its concept in order to expand upon the idea of an ensemble — one that includes kids. The premise of the show is just as it sounds: all of the children are used to having one parent raise them. But because all of the parents are friends, it stands to reason that the kids see their single parent's friends pretty often. In the pilot, that leads to small stories between Angie's son and Will, and Poppy's son and Douglas.

Single Parents is sweet and heartwarming (a scene toward the end of the pilot will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside), but it's also funny. And the show utilizes my favorite kind of comedy — character-centric comedy. What New Girl, Friends, Parks and Recreation and many other ensemble comedies did well was recognize that situations are funny because PEOPLE are funny; and people with quirks who have to interact with other people with quirks? Even better. Taran Killam has always been funny to me — I've watched his comedy evolve from the days of The Amanda Show to Saturday Night Live and everything in between — and his interactions with Leighton Meester (whose ability to so succinctly and effortlessly deliver sarcasm is sorely underappreciated) prove that they have comedic chemistry.

The show is about trying to retain your identity as an adult while struggling to raise children — about the sacrifices you make for them, and the mistakes, bad advice, and silly things that happen along the way. But Single Parents also seems to be about the same sort of central concept New Girl was: friends are family too, and it's crucial that we rely on others for help and to make us better.

It takes a village to raise a child, and I definitely want more of the Single Parents village.

Out-of-context dialogue teases:
  • "Are you whisper-singing Moana at me?"
  • *sighs* "Like coconuts and safety."
  • "Is he wearing a necklace made of garbage?"
  • "He knows he's white, right?" "Everybody knows."
  • "My dad is kind of a garbage human."

Pilot Grade: A

Single Parents premieres September 26 at 9:30 p.m. on ABC.


Post a Comment