When a favorite actor gets cast in a questionable show, you have to weigh your options. Is it worth it to suffer through early episodes based just on an appreciation of this person, or is it better to not even start? With Fox’s new comedy The Mick, the answer is not altogether clear. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Kaitlin Olson is the glue that holds the show together, working as hard as she can to make something out of an otherwise tired sitcom setup.
The Mick is a kind of gender-swapped Uncle Buck story, where reckless grifter Mackenzie (Olson) visits her much wealthier sister in Greenwich, Connecticut in order to ask for money. Instead, she ends up being left with the kids, as her sister and brother-in-law flee the country to avoid fraud charges by the FBI. The kids balk at Mick being put in charge, but throughout the first four episodes available for review, the show softens Mick’s street-rat persona and dangerous behavior into something a little more Greenwich-friendly: eccentricity
Ultimately, the show — which comes from Sunny alums Dave and John Chernin — is about terrible people going to elaborate lengths to humiliate and one-up each other, which usually ends with a lot of shouting. For Sunny fans that will feel like home, though for more general TV watchers, The Mick is a too-familiar tale about a wayward relative and some bratty kids who end up existing as part of an uneasy alliance of convenience. Mick and “her guy” Jimmy (Scott MacArthur) need money and enjoy the benefits of the mansion, while the kids — sharp-tongued Sabrina (Sofia Black D’Elia), wealth-obsessed Chip (Thomas Barbusca), and chipper wild card Ben (Jack Stanton) — need a guardian. Rounding out the motley crew is the housekeeper Alba (Carla Jimenez), who starts out as a central casting character though slowly becomes something more.
The Mick is similarly boilerplate, but never quite becomes something more as it skirts the edges of actual child endangerment while having to ultimately play by broadcast rules. It leads to a mishmash of tone between humor and just vulgarity, and while Olson’s manic energy is fantastic to watch, terrible people doing terrible things is a niche perhaps better served on cable. (It’s worked for It’s Always Sunny for this long, anyway). The kid actors are all good, particularly Stanton as the weird one who gets the most amount of accidental torture (burning off his taste buds at a hibachi grill, having an allergic reaction to ice cream, nearly being run over by a pony), but their characters are all one-note, a weakness in the writing that only Olson is able to overcome.
In the second episode, the show feels the need to show why Mick is the only choice to care for the children, and makes a distinction between her unconventional choices that come from a place of love rather than the reign of terror bestowed upon the kids by their grandmother. And yet, it’s almost satisfying to see someone wrangle these thoughtless and spoiled kids, even if the methods are Draconian. In highlighting this, the show wants us to see Mick as someone whose heart is in the right place, ultimately, and that there is some method to her madness. The Mick stops short of having the family hug at the end of each half hour, but as the series progresses the formula for each episode is clear.
For some, Olson’s immense comedic talents and the show’s rude humor may be enough of a diversion to stick with The Mick, but if you want to see Olson give a similarly great performance on a much better written show, go back to It’s Always Sunny. She deserved a starring vehicle, but this one let her down.
Rating: ★★ Fair — Only for the dedicated
The Mick premieres Sunday, January 1st before moving to its regular Tuesday night timeslot January 3rd on Fox.