If you were a fan of “Scrubs,” one of the best sitcoms of the past 20 years, then you probably have a special place in your heart for Sarah Chalke. Now it’s time to padlock the door to that special place, so it won’t be sullied by her new project, a feeble ABC sitcom called “How to Live With Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life).”
Chalke is not really the problem with the show, which premieres on Wednesday night at 9:30, after “Modern Family.” She does her usual effusive but awkward routine, which is winning if predictable. The problem is almost everything around her, including the title, which is cutesy on a stick.
In “How to Live with Your Parents (For the Rest of Your Life),” Chalke is Polly, a woman who moved back home with her parents a year ago, after her marriage fell apart, and is still there. She has a daughter, Natalie (Rachel Eggleston), which means that her lovably stupid ex-husband, Julian (Jon Dore), now gets to pop in whenever he wants and be a zany series regular. Oh joy.
Julian’s shtick is instantly tired, as he strips down to his undies to swim in the family pool and inadvertently lets his truck glide down the driveway into a big rock. Also instantly tired: Polly’s stepfather, Max (Brad Garrett), who had a testicle removed and now lives in a state of turmoil and obsession about it. When Polly’s mother, Elaine (Elizabeth Perkins), tries to soothe him, he begs, “Let me miss my ball.” And Elaine is also a one-note creation, as she overshares with Polly about her sex life. When she tries to push Polly back into the dating pool, she brags, “I slept with every guy in my improv class before I found Max . . . and Karen.” That’s her best line, by the way; “I’m very proud of my orgasms” is in second place.
“How to Live Blah Blah Blah” isn’t the bottom of the sitcom barrel. It’s a lot easier to take than “2 Broke Girls.” And there is always the possibility of improvement, although the one-dimensional and stale premise of the show doesn’t leave much room to move. Boomerang kids are nothing new on TV comedies, and neither are parents who act like children — the show’s two big ideas.
ABC is hoping that “How to Live” will touch a nerve with families who are weathering the recession in close quarters: “I’m not a failure,” Polly says, “I’m trendy.” But they may be forgetting that those families might well be looking to have a laugh.Matthew Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Matthew