Jill Kargman (Bravo)

Based on creator and star Jill Kargman’s successful novel Momzillas, Bravo’s second scripted drama, Odd Mom Out, is a tale as old as time: Author writes book exposing the bad behavior of the wealthy elite while simultaneously enabling readers to feel morally superior and live vicariously through all of the soapy, sordid details. This approach may seem au courant since the “anthropological,” and possibly slightly fictional memoir, Primates of Park Avenue, is receiving so much press for similarly targeting the ugly habits of Upper East Side mothers, but it should really seem familiar more than anything else. Exposés of the UES are a dime a dozen, as Alessandra Stanley points out in her review where she traces these books’ roots all the way back to 1914.

These stories may be ubiquitous but they’re also feeling more dated by the moment, which is some explanation for why they aren’t for everyone. Here, Bravo is trying to have it all. The network understandably wants to remind the public of its more sophisticated roots by offering scripted drama that skewers its less savory reality fare. In essence, though, Odd Mom Out is still in Bravo’s modern wheelhouse, as it features self-involved upper class white women criticizing one another amongst the aspirational trappings that makes for ideal escapist television. Still, any show can work given the right execution and Odd Mom Out is ambitious and thoughtful enough to deserve viewers’ patience as it temporarily takes over for Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce in trying to steer Bravo in a better direction. Bravo was wise to develop a series for a woman with a strong voice that’s been honed in print, but that voice still needs refinement if it’s going to translate to the small screen. While not everything works so far in Odd Mom Out, the show isn’t playing it safe, however, and that experimentation with humor, tone, and direction could pay off if they continue to tweak.

One of the most successful elements of the show is the believable friendship between Jill, a reluctant upper class mom and her best friend Vanessa, a doctor by day and serial dater by night. Here, the two venture out of the UES in order to attend a get together in Brooklyn. Those who live in New York City or who have watched the later Miranda-centric episodes of Sex And The City know all about the consequences of that decision: a long hike and a lot of complaining. Jill doesn’t think that she fits in with her husband’s wealthy family and the snobby UES attitude, so she’s excited to leave the nest; as these stories often go, however, she quickly learns that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. At the party, Jill takes stock of everyone a little too quickly, assuming that just because they seem much more down to earth than her UES neighbors that she’s found a community where she belongs, which includes the “cool mom friends” and good school ready to accept her daughter that she’s been seeking since the first episode. Odd Mom Out is silly escapist fun, but it’s also about the ever-complicated but necessary intersection between the self and society—how people figure out who they are, where they belong, and how to deal in places where they clearly do not belong, but have a social obligation to try.

Jill has a really good life that she may not fully appreciate, but that instinctive need for belonging is relatable, and so is her desperation once a small glimmer of hope makes itself known. She gets so swept up in Brooklyn’s hipster mom culture that she gets completely carried away, ready to uproot her family based on one good afternoon. Ultimately, Jill’s naiveté, impulsivity, and neediness do not amount to a good look, and it’s almost a relief when her bubble is burst only because it takes her obnoxiousness down a notch. Let’s get this out of the way to avoid any Girls-level misunderstandings of the text: It’s not as overt in this episode, but previous installments of Odd Mom Out have made it abundantly clear that the show is both self-aware and deliberate when it comes to Jill’s bouts of self-centeredness; she may consider herself to be a down to earth person, but she demonstrates the same egocentricity that she criticizes the more ostentatious UES mothers for exhibiting. As she actually gets to know the Brooklynites, Jill realizes that they aren’t so different from the UES women after all; they can be just as snobby when it comes to parenting. In the end, though, she chooses UES mommy culture, which may be stifling and ridiculous, but at least she already knows the rules.

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The Brooklyn parents may consist of a grab bag of liberal coddling stereotypes, but there’s also some specificity there that’s somewhat observant. Meanwhile, Jill’s pregnant, vapid sister-in-law Brooke is pushing everyone away from her as she’s nearing her due date, and by “everyone,” I mean the personal assistant and household staff her husband can now afford thanks to a financial windfall. Brooke continues to be way too flat and broad of a comedic villain, but at least she gets some new material when the main reason for ordering everyone out of her presence is revealed: She may be mean, but she does have an ounce of humanity under there long obscured by layers of makeup and self-obsession. And by “ounce of humanity,” I mean a pregnant woman fart.

This may seem like a juvenile choice for the show to make—and it is—but it’s also risky, unexpected and weird. Oddly enough, all it takes is one fart to make the buttoned-up, perfect Brooke a little more interesting. Nevertheless, the writers still have a ways to go with this character and several others including Brooke’s assistant, husband, and mother, because they’re reading as very cartoonish for now. There’s a lot that hasn’t been revealed about Jill, let alone her family, and the superficiality can be diminished by either getting dramatic and making the characters more sympathetic or going the more comedic route and getting really weird. Given its (not always successful) attempts at flights of fancy, including the dream-like sequence in Brooklyn and musical number at the close of the episode—not to mention a high society woman’s fart—getting weird may be the best choice for this particular show. Where and how far it wants to go are clearly questions that the show is still trying to work out but it’s better to experiment now and see what it can get away with than limit the show creatively early on.

Intellectually, it’s much easier to accept the grounded moments that balance out the heightened sequences. The aspects of the show that are already solidified right out of the gate are evident in Vanessa’s subplot even though it’s a fairly rote and anti-climactic diversion plot-wise. KK Glick is a wonderful actress and elevates all of her scenes. Her flirty, competitive banter with a man she meets at the Brooklyn party is very fun to watch even if their interaction ends in a very expected place. This scene echoes those that Vanessa has had with Jill at the diner, where the writers and performers have really shown their ability to recreate realistic comedic conversation—no small feat. Hopefully Vanessa isn’t increasingly relegated to romantic subplots as so often happens with “the best friend” because she might be the most developed character—and her scenes might be the most indicative of potential for this series.

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Stray observations

  • Welcome to weekly coverage for Odd Mom Out coming straight atcha from the UES. XOXO, Alexa.
  • “I just want this bowling ball out of me so I can be by myself!”
  • “Mom, how do you spell quinoa? Nobody really knows.”
  • “Well how do you know you’re doing better than everyone else?”

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