Tuesday, October 30, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Kids Are Alright' - A New Microwave Creates Tension Between Mike and Peggy in 'Microwave'

ABC's The Kids Are Alright - Episode 1.03 "Microwave"

After Mike introduces a new microwave to the Cleary household, Peggy rejects it as she feels like it's intruding into her domain. Fed up with Mike's experimenting and nudging, Peggy secretly sabotages his happiness. Eager to see everything exposed for the first time, Joey and Timmy go to extreme lengths to see Barbara Eden's wardrobe malfunction on a Bob Hope TV special. Lawrence attempts to psychoanalyze Mike and Peggy, only to realize he needs to look deeply at himself.

In 2018, it has become very difficult to keep up with every television show out there. It's even more difficult to provide adequate coverage on this site about the episodes that air every week. Not every show can get full coverage because of my busy and hectic viewing schedule. As such, some reviews will now be condensed to give only some summary thoughts. But it also affords a space for me to jot down my thoughts on the various episodes. And so, here are my thoughts on this week's episode of ABC's The Kids Are Alright.

"Microwave" was written by Rob Ulin and directed by Randall Einhorn

This episode is potentially a step in the wrong direction for The Kids Are Alright. The plots of this episode are a bit confused with the tone they are going for and how they wish to come across. The subplot with Timmy and Joey is actually being horrible. It's just over-the-top and raunchy. Those are the adjectives the show is going for. They have certainly been qualities in previously plot beats. However, the show also wanted to be sweet and sentimental in its stories earlier too. Here, it's just disgusting to see how uninformed these boys are because they are growing up in confusing times. But the show is so amused with itself when it comes to making jokes about television needing to be watched live and photos taking at least a day to properly develop. That is such simple and easy humor. Those are plot beats that have already been done before on period comedies. There is a wink and nod to those watching who know how different things are in the world now. But it's not a part of some insightful observation. Instead, it's just gross to see these boys objectifying Barbara Eden with the parents being absolutely clueless as to what's going on. Again, all of this could be a consistent part of the show that proves that it is going for an edgier tone. And yet, it also seems like the show wants the audience to see all of this as sweet and moving as well which it absolutely doesn't earn at all. Similarly, the show is asking the audience to see Peggy as a strong woman who will continue to manipulate and deceive until she gets what she wants. She wants her husband to listen to her and take her seriously. She doesn't want him to just bulldoze through the life she has created at home. But she's also more than willing to throw a fork into the microwave and pretend its their anniversary in order to win in this argument as well. She doesn't want to apologize or be caught in the wrong. She panics when Mike accuses her of destroying this microwave because she knows details only the culprit would know. And again, this story is steeped in the idea that this is a wonderful and life-changing piece of technology that modern audiences understand well while the Cleary family is so completely amused by it. That's a quality that gets old very quickly. That can't be the sole thing that defines a story. And yet, that's exactly what happens here. Moreover, the show is asking the audience to see Mike and Peggy as a strong couple. However, they don't seem to communicate with each other. That too is a byproduct of the time where they are both stubborn and hold onto their ideals to keep this family together. They aren't about to succumb to Lawrence's attempts to psychoanalyze their marriage because they instinctively know that it will only bring up damage that could tear this family unit apart. However, having that awareness also means that it has to be at the forefront of their minds as well. As such, it's a little difficult to see them as a successful couple. They come across more as the traditional gender roles of the time without the show calling out just how complicated that can be. More nuance and specificity was needed for all of the stories on display here.