Are You In the Mood?
Advance Review: Surviving Jack – “Pilot”
Season 1, Episode 1
Air date: Thursday, March 27, 2014, 8:30PM E/P on Fox
“I love those goddamn kids.” – Jack
I hadn’t heard about Surviving Jack prior to receiving a screener notice. So, I decided what the heck, let’s see what’s up. My interests were piqued because the show stars Christopher Meloni and Racheal Harris as Jack and Joanne Dunlevy (respectively), parents to Frankie (Connor Buckley) and Rachel (Claudia Lee). Going in, armed with little information, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Surviving Jack is a comedy based on best-selling author Justin Halpern’s autobiographical book, “I Suck at Girls.” Set in 1990s Southern California, the show kind of reminds me of Shit My Dad Says but as a younger version. Meloni plays this buttoned-up doctor, Jack Dunlevy, who is taking over the household duty of looking after the kids, both teens at this point, while his beloved wife goes back to school to fulfill her dreams of becoming a lawyer. Well, let’s just say Jack doesn’t really have quite the finesse Joanne would in certain situations and what ensues is nothing short of awkward hilarity with some eyebrow raising, laugh out loud fun.
Let’s be honest, the 90s were a strange time. Big hair was still in, although fading out into something less poufy and more grunge-like; tie-dye and mood changing shirts were in plentiful supply; and the music…well, while not in the flavor of my beloved 80s, there were some awesome tunes circulating in the 90s. Frankie is starting high school and he’s your basic awkward teen—weird around girls, taller than his friends, gets teased by the jocks, and doesn’t seem to connect with his father. But all that changes through a series of unfortunate, yet hilarious, life lessons, including stealing a certain type of magazine. Boys and sex...that could be a show all on its own.
Having the show set in the 90s is markedly poignant to the series. With the clothing and music, the vibe of the 90s is completely different than any other decade. The era where we all slowly morphed out of the 80s neon and big everything to the laid back, would-be grunge era, Surviving Jack’s other supporting character is the 90s itself. Our mentality and the way we viewed the world was much different—even parenting was different. Back then, child abuse laws weren’t as strict and a good spanking went a long way. I’m sure Jack would agree.
While Surviving Jack made me laugh out loud in some scenes, others dragged at an awkward pace. Some of those scenes made me feel as though I were there, especially when Frankie gets busted in what Jack calls “nut huggers,” as he fumbles in the dark. These nuggets of hilarity prompted me to continue watching the 25-minute pilot. Meloni absolutely slays me as Jack. He plays that dad you’ve heard so much about. You know, the one who scares your boyfriend so badly he hits his head (thank goodness Jack is a doctor), and the one who puts a box of condoms in his son’s book-bag with a note. The note…ha!
Surviving Jack is honest; well, at least Jack is. He admits he would be as happy as a clam if the world ended and it were just him and Joanne…although, he’d mourn for the kids; he’s not “an asshole.” There is a bit of heart, if you read between the lines, and the chemistry among the cast is very convincing. You feel as though you’ve walked into a neighbor’s house. If you’re looking for an off-beat, quirky coming-of-age comedy, then Surviving Jack fits the bill. Just avoid driving lessons with Jack; your friends might not survive.
Tune in to Surviving Jack, premiering Thursday, March 27, 2014 at 8:30 PM ET/PT on Fox.
For more on the show, go to fox.com/surviving-jack.