Wednesday, November 20, 2019

REVIEW: 'Mad About You' - Paul and Jamie Move Their Daughter Into Her College Dorm Room in 'The Kid Leaves'

Spectrum's Mad About You - Episode 8.01 "The Kid Leaves"

When Paul and Jamie drop their daughter Mabel off for her first day of college, it quickly becomes clear that they have very different ideas of what their lives after children will look like.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season premiere of Spectrum's Mad About You.

"The Kid Leaves" was directed by Helen Hunt with story by Helen Hunt, Paul Reiser & Peter Tolan and teleplay by Paul Reiser

During the comedy's original run on NBC, Mad About You centered on the relationship of married couple Paul and Jamie Buchman. It was constantly evolving and eventually led to a child. But it was a revolutionary show because it was fundamentally about their relationship. They weren't defined as parents. That changed. And now, that dynamic also informs this revival season. At the start of this premiere, Paul and Jamie are helping their daughter Mabel move into her college dorm room. She may only be moving five blocks away but Paul and Jamie feel like empty nesters once more. It's what they have been chasing for a long time. And yet, it's also an emotional upheaval because it's a significant change to the dynamic that has defined their lives for the past two decades. Mabel has been a near constant part of their lives. They love her so much. In fact, Jamie professes that Mabel is the love of her life in the most grounded moment of this premiere. Paul and Jamie are conflicted about what they should be feeling. Paul breaks down into tears because it's such a major change. His daughter is leaving the nest to start her own life. But Mabel and Jamie don't have the time to indulge his silly poem. They simply have to get her moved in according to a certain time schedule. That puts an inherent amount of pressure onto this situation. There is a deadline. It makes it seem like one moment Mabel is the child dependant on her parents and then transitions into an adult living on her own in the next. It's startling. People keep coming into Paul and Jamie's apartment telling them how they should feel about this. That mostly presents as a way for the show to incorporate many of the supporting characters from the previous run while highlighting what is going on in their respective lives. Of course, the central dynamic between Paul and Jamie needs to remain the focus. They are important figures in this world. Sure, Mabel should be just as compelling and necessary a figure as well. She too is experiencing a great change. It's important to delve into how she plans on handling that. Right now, it presents as a simple fight in which she argues that she doesn't have to make her bed before leaving and that her parents shouldn't want her to return home in order to do that. She is skilled when it comes to making those arguments with her parents as well. She understands their relationship and how to keep it functional. That's healthy while also providing a sense that she wants the freedom to stretch her wings and not be confined by whatever they are doing. That freedom has to be given. It's necessary. And yet, Paul and Jamie keep showing up at her dorm. It's a lackluster running joke throughout this premiere. It's instead more meaningful when Paul returns home to see the torn apart bed in the hallway. That informs him of exactly what his wife is now capable of doing. She destroyed this bed. It's a symbol for how destructive this change could be. However, it also highlights the support that each of them are still willing to give to one another. They are empty nesters. It's something they will have to adjust to. Paul may have had a goal to always strive for in Tahiti. However, that just gave him some vague construct to keep his focus on as he went through the ups and downs of parenting. For Jamie, it's not as simple as that. Nor should it be as simple as her having a stronger connection to her daughter because she gave birth to her. It's an emotional time. But it's also the show setting up a new dynamic for itself to focus on how marriage functions in 2019. It may be overly dependant on some broad humor and character strokes though. That's unfortunate. More specificity is needed in order for this revival season to seem necessary. Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt are great actors with terrific chemistry. That shouldn't be the only thing of interest being offered by the show. It may not be enough for people to search out these new episodes on a platform with no clue purpose or identity.