Last night, Fox’s last of its Fall premieres hit the small screen: I Hate My Teenage Daughter. And with all due respect, I have to ask, What the hell was Fox thinking? As a critic, I have a tendency to get into a mode of seeking out problems and minor issues within series, and in approaching I Hate My Teenage Daughter, I was ready to throw down the gauntlet the minute I saw the first promo. However, I vowed to give it a shot. After all, what can a 30-second clip really tell us what a show is all about? Well, after watching the full 20 minutes of yelling and whining in lieu of dialogue, complete with a depressed woman literally shoveling pie into her face, I can say that not only was I correct but that this new series is kind of an insult to all the “woman power” we’ve been touting so far this fall.
So, we’ve arrived at 10 Things We Hate about I Hate My Teenage Daughter, but first, some context:
Our “heroines” Annie (Jamie Pressley) and Nikki (Katie Finneran) are single moms and best friends with two terrible and popular (and don’t forget pretty!) teenage daughters. Annie was raised in a very uptight household and spoils her daughter with everything she never had – in other words, everything. Nikki is newly divorced and was an overweight, alopecia-stricken outcast in high school, so she’s still dealing with the insecurities and living vicariously through her daughter. Neither of them know how to parent and their children are horrible as a result. Sounds fun, right?
1. Calling each other “stupid b*****” is how chain-smoking barflies speak, it’s not for suburban moms. The dialogue could stand grow up a bit.
2. The inability to parent one’s child, to the point where both daughters lock a handicapped student in the girls’ bathroom just because they can, is not a cute little character flaw to joke about. It’s just plain awful.
3. Women who’ve lost a lot of weight aren’t all consumed by a food obsession. The lead actress shoveling pie into her, well, pie-hole stopped being funny after the generation of I Love Lucy – and it was funny when Lucille Ball did it because it wasn’t a slight on overweight people, it was just Lucy being the nut she always is.
4. Not all divorcees are stupidly desperate. Just because a woman is a divorcee, it doesn’t mean she goes to PTA meetings in jeggings so tight that they burst at the seams, revealing a lack of underwear. Come on, it’s like they’re trying to make women look bad.
5. Sure, there are some religious zealots in this country. And sure, some of them can be a little extreme. But there’s a way to poke fun at them in an intelligent way. Annie’s parents were extremely religious, and if you’re going to take aim at something as personal as that, at least have the decency to write smarter jokes. Take a page out of Arrested Development’s Ann playbook.
6. The series plays on the worst qualities of suburban moms. Especially the one where they try to live out their own dreams through their daughters. Ladies, these are the things we’re trying to work against, let’s not teach the world that these behaviors are normal, cute and funny.
7. The whole high-school-never-ends bit is true to an extent, but can we at least acknowledge that these characters are old enough to have their own checkbooks and bank accounts?
8. The deadbeat dad and the misogynistic ex-husband are more charismatic and likable than the leading ladies. I don’t think I need to explain why this is a problem.
9. It’s not funny to make fame and being pretty the accepted marks of success. We get that this show isn’t a how-to manual, but Nikki’s constant need for her daughter to be popular and pretty is touted as a stupid goal that’s totally cute and acceptable because like, who’d want their daughter to be an uggo, right? We’ve evolved from this place, let’s try and stay there.
10. None of these people are likable. Even the dead beat dad’s brother, who is the voice of reason and the object of Annie’s school-girl crush, is a bit of an ass. You can’t get onboard with a show that can’t hook you emotionally. And this one certainly doesn’t.