Monday, March 31, 2014

Pilot Review: Surviving Jack

Surviving Jack (FOX)
Premiered March 27 at 9:30pm

I knew that I wasn’t going to like this show back when the trailer first premiered as part FOX’s upfront presentation last May and I grouped it with “The Goldbergs” as an irritating throwback to a previous decade with all-too-familiar family tropes. It’s been almost a year since then, and so I’ve had time to forget all about how unpromising this show looked. Unfortunately, the episode itself didn’t dispel any of those notions, and instead I can catalog it into the category of those series that I have absolutely no interest in returning to for another outing. The big deal about this show is that it’s Christopher Meloni’s return to television following his exit from “Law and Order: SVU,” a brief and memorable stint on “True Blood” notwithstanding. He does have a plum role in many ways here, the chance to play a hard-nosed father intent on parenting the way he wants to, which doesn’t necessarily take into account humanity or anyone else’s opinion. This episode contained plenty of familiar moments of questionable parenting and teenage angst, and setting it in the 1990s only serves to make it even more unbearable. Meloni is fine and has fun with the part, but it doesn’t exactly demand much of him. It’s disappointing to see Rachael Harris, who is quite often better than her material, relegated to the boring archetype of the mother who goes back to work (or in this case, school) and has to let her spouse start being the parent. The kids leave much to be desired as well. I don’t have much in the way of nice things to say about this show.

How will it work as a series? People do seem to love “The Goldbergs,” so maybe this is exactly what parents want to be watching these days. Charting a young man’s growth during his teen years is ripe for endless plotlines, and adding in the 90s limits the scope to a more focused but still equally fruitful pool of ideas. If viewers endorse this show, it could go on forever.
How long will it last? That’s not much of a concern, however. Multiple articles about the pilot ratings describe it as “soft,” which is never a good thing. It’s not entirely damning, but the show needed to open bigger to make an impact given that FOX already has a successful slate of young comedies. I think this show might last the season, but that’s it.

Pilot grade: F

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