You hear that, Dads? You're no longer the worst! Just the second worst. That calls for a celebration, right? Why don't you take that second worst trophy and beat some old people with it. That seems like your idea of fun.
But invite The Millers, because they would have a blast at that party.
Here's the thing--this pilot is mean. It's all out nasty. It's spending a half-hour with loathsome characters, and expecting the audience to yuck it up. What a vile concept.
First off, there's Will Arnett, the perpetual snarky leading man.* How is he mean? He gleefully lies to his parents. He openly mocks them to his irksome sister. He's well over thirty, and yet he still lies about his mom, denying her presence like some punk teenager at the mall, ashamed that she has the gall to exist in front of his friends. It's distasteful. This awfulness extends to everything in his life. When someone asks him why he hasn't risen higher in his work, why the station has him covering the neighborhood beat, the answer is simple. It's because he's apathetic at best, and openly rude to the subjects of his stories at worst. Why would he get a promotion? He's terrible.
And this is our hero.
But his parents are equally frustrating. According to this show, old people are essentially giant, idiotic children. That's right. Years of parenting and life experience count for nothing. Thanks, The Millers! Here I was, preparing to learn and develop and become wise as I aged. Now I know not to try any of that, since my life will devolve into an endless string of confusion over operating remotes and complaints about how cinnamon hurts my tongue (a joke so irksome, they had Beau Bridges repeat it twice, both in the same tone of voice and with the same look of a man whose soul is dying). Add that to the parents incessant nitpicking at each other--once again, done for laughs--and old age is indeed a bleak prospect.
There is an attempt at redemption done near the end, played in a skin-creepingly awful matter. In a last-ditch effort to make Arnett a smidgen more likable, they have him take pity on his mother and do the Dirty Dancing dance with her. It's as disturbing as it sounds. And it doesn't magically become acceptable because they let the sane, voice-of-reason black guy (J.B. Smoove) comment on how it could be either sweet or creepy. Putting the word "sweet" in the same vicinity does not make the moment sweet. That's like placing a pink bow near a cockroach and calling it your daughter. It just doesn't work. And neither does The Millers.
*Seriously, can they stop trying to make leading man Arnett happen? It's not going to happen. He works best as an off-the-wall side character. When he's forced into leading man status it's WAY too much. He's just so annoyingly smug.
-There were some casting changes made between the making of the pilot and the airing of the pilot. In the trailer, Arnett's sister and her husband are played by Mary Elizabeth Ellis (a.k.a. Mrs. Charlie Day, a.k.a. the Waitress from Always Sunny) and Michael Rapaport (you know him. Trust me). Luckily for them, they got out alive. Good on ya, folks. They were replaced by diabetes-inducing sweetheart Jayma Mays, using a Southern accent for no discernible reason, and Nelson Franklin (a.k.a. Comeau from Scott Pilgrim). I like Comeau fine, but Jayma Mays is over-selling her lines like an amateur. Plus, they look almost green-screened into the pilot at times. Bad move, CBS.