Sorry ladies, I hate I Hate My Teenage Daughter

November 30, 2011

Coming soon – Bell Media will launch a new specialty channel aimed at women aged 18 to 34. It will be called the "Bella" channel, apparently.

Clearly, there is a crying need for such a channel. Lady viewers are underserved. Especially the in areas of "relationships, lifestyle, beauty and trends." That's Bella's beat, we hear.

I mean, the existence of Fashion Television, W Network, Cosmo TV, Slice, the Oprah Winfrey Network Canada, E! Canada, HGTV, Twist TV and Showcase Diva cannot possibly mean that all the needs of lady viewers are catered to. Heavens no, relationships, lifestyle, beauty and trends are areas that demand – demand, I tell you – ever-expanding coverage.

Yes, it's true. Obviously there are glaring omissions in the coverage offered by the nine channels aimed at women. For instance, women and their teenaged daughters. Oh yeah, lady teens and moms. You know it's an issue that begs for all-out examination.

I Hate My Teenage Daughter (Fox, 9:30 p.m.) is a lifestyle/trend thingamajig brought to life as a sitcom. It's just so obvious as a premise. I mean, have you ever come across a TV show that so blatantly told you its entire concept in the title?

That's not to say that the idea isn't promising – two next-door moms dealing with their teen daughters, kids who have become the cool, mean girls they loathed in school. Comedy galore, you'd think.

Regrettably, it is not so. In fact, I hate I Hate My Teenage Daughter. The show is so clunky, garden-variety sitcom dumb and barefaced in its predictable qualities that, about two minutes in, the inevitable scene happens. One mom, Annie (Jaime Pressly), is cooking breakfast. Along comes teen daughter Sophie (Kristi Lauren). As absolutely expected in this kind of comedy, Sophie is dressed like a seventies-era hooker. In fact, she looks like she could have played a hooker on an episode of Starsky & Hutch back in the day. Platform heels, rainbow-coloured leggings and hot pants, that kinda thing.

The following exchange takes place. Mom: "Oh no, no, no, you need to go change. You are not wearing that to school." Daughter: "You wear your pyjama top to work and I'm not saying anything about it." Indeed, it is all that brazen in its search for cheap and predictable laughs.

There follows some more dubiously comic nonsense. It turns out that Sophie and best pal Mackenzie (Aisha Dee), the daughter of Annie's best pal Nikki (Katie Finneran) have been accused of locking a disabled kid in the bathroom at school. Actions must be taken. Possibly banning Sophie and Mackenzie from attending the high-school dance. (A previous scene has Sophie saying to her mom, "Mom, it's our high-school dance and if you show up anywhere near it, I'll kill myself!")

Some peripheral characters are introduced. The high-school principal is, it turns out, an old schoolmate of the moms and was a really mean girl back then. Then there is Annie's ex-husband, a musician who appears stoned all the time, as musicians do on sitcoms. And the ex's brother Jack, a lawyer (Kevin Rahm, who was Lee, one-half of the gay couple in Desperate Housewives). Jack is the only vaguely appealing character on the show.

Initially one supposes that moms Annie and Nikki are meant to be appealing. Beleaguered moms dealing with obnoxious teenagers. And then as the half-hour of comedy unfolds, their self-loathing gushes forth. Annie is embarrassed about her clothes and her job. She makes a fool of herself, turning into giggling adolescent, over Jack. Nikki turns to food and there is one cringe-inducing scene – played for raucous comedy – of Nikki eating pies with her hands because she can't stand the stress of dealing with her daughter. There's nothing funny about the self-loathing. And, with dire inevitability, the sitcom turns into a touchy-feely, everybody-embraces, feel-good thing before the half-hour is over.

The pity is Pressly and Finneran are excellent comic actors. Pressly was brilliant as the wacky Joy in My Name is Earl and Finneran is a Tony Award-winning Broadway star. They deserve much better than this.

As do the viewers, especially lady viewers expecting some kind of comic romp rooted in the promising realm of moms fearing that their teenage daughters have become the kind of girls they hated.

So, in the end, the truth emerges – we really do need another female-centric channel to handle all the issues that face lady viewers. For sure, a core mom/daughter issue is not dwelt upon here with any insight, comic or otherwise. Expect this soon on one of the nine relevant channels – "My daughter, the mean girl: One mom's tragic story." Coming soon, just like Bella.

Check local listings.

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