Mickey shopping with Ben (Photo: FOX)

The Mick’s first episode is as basic as any pilot can be: laying out the main story and central tensions and giving the main characters motives and flaws. Mickey (Kaitlin Olson), or “The Mick” crashes her sister’s party. Her sister, despite her airs and snobbery, only got her giant mansion and matching fortune by marrying rich, and Mick has come to ask for money. Before she can secure the funds, though, the SEC raids the party, taking her sister and brother-in-law in custody, so her sister makes a deal: watch the kids for tonight and she’ll get her money.

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If you liked It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, you might not like The Mick. While it comes from a lot of the same people, the whole being-on-network-TV really cuts into the ability to emulate the extremely funny horror-show chaos of the aforementioned show. However, if you loved It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, you’re probably a bit of an asshole but you will relish seeing Kaitlin Olson again in all her dark glory. Unlike her It’s Always Sunny character Sweet Dee, who was always damned to be the smartest fool among fools, the Mick is “a brash, two-bit hustler from Rhode Island,” according to Fox’s press materials. (Why is the RI designation relevant? Can someone from RI please explain.) Mickey, having lucked out with the riches, is trying to make due with the children, all of whom are somewhat stereotypical rich kids, and not like those in The O.C. or Veronica Mars. For a show that aims to be a crass clashing of the classes, the show has little of the darkness of the aforementioned shows, nor any of the antics of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.

Instead, idealistic Sabrina (Sofia Black-D’Elia from The Night Of) is overeducated in a way that makes her feud with the Mick a case of street smarts against book smarts—the end joke between them doesn’t hit as hard as it could but it makes me hopeful for the future. Meanwhile, Mickey steers middle child Chip (Thomas Barbusca) wrong, Chip kind of deserves to get punched in the face—but his rich kid-ness is so over the top that his storyline barely has a point. The third and cutest child is Ben, whose innocent questions about money gets Mickey to sweeten up a bit without losing her sour; while they discuss money and the financial crisis, she sets a fire in a trashcan so they can get free ice cream.

The other problem is with the way the characters of color are written. Alba (Carla Jimenez) doesn’t have enough dimension, even if Mickey speaks kindly to her. And I don’t know if I like Susan Park’s character Liz yet. I’m glad Park’s getting the work – she’s a sharp, subtle performer who’s been in big shows but not given much to do yet. But a rich Korean American woman is going to have a different life compared to a rich Anglo-American woman, and the writing should hopefully reflect that. While Liz is still a caricature, she’s a caricature that only makes sense if she were played by a blond white lady. Hopefully the writing will level up in the next few episodes.

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The Mick’s main pitfall, though, is that Mick doesn’t scam hard enough. Mickey’s scams, unlike the scams of the It’s Always Sunny characters, are supposed to succeed, at least enough for her to eke out an existence without having to do too much work. But it’s pretty boring so far to see Mickey use her skills just to parent her niece and nephews – I’d rather she take some risks messing with the already messed-up systems they now all live in, like Jeff Winger’s sillier “get an A without working” scams in Community. The one moment in the pilot where this seemed possible was when Alba offers to clean up a mess Mickey makes with the neighbor and the security guard.

But if 2016 was the year of the scam, that’s raised the stakes for 2017. I can’t tell yet if The Mick can meet those new expectations.

Stray observations:

  • Sabrina’s faux-protests seem even more egregious nowadays. Though I’m surprised she doesn’t have a million volunteering extracurriculars so she can get into some Ivy League school.
  • On that note, I really wish the end joke had been better. I guess I just don’t care if Mickey messes with Sabrina – I prefer her fighting the establishment and shopping with Ben more than anything else.
  • As someone who hates driving, I loved the opening joke of Mickey getting her boyfriend to drive from Rhode Island to Connecticut to a party she won’t bring him to just so she can drink.
  • While I had a lot of little frustrations with the pilot, I could watch Mickey carousing around the house and playing with all the rich toys for hours. I liked the sequence better when it happened on Last Man On Earth, though.
  • I know the parents leaving the country is to keep the sitcom’s premise alive, but is that really how they’ll be written off? Won’t these kids run out of money at a certain point? Maybe the parents will die in the finale and they’ll inherit more money and then maybe one parent will return with amnesia…but that’s definitely hoping for too much from this show.

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