There's a ton of new television comedies this year. Some of it is terrible ( Mixology ). Some of it is "ehh" (The Millers). And some of it is a blatant rip-off of the Friends format but stars James Van Der Beek so it's cool (Friends With Better Lives, because even the title tells you that it wants to be the new Friends). Luckily, there is at least one shining example of what comedy should be, and that is the nostalgic and very, very funny Surviving Jack on Fox.
Created by Justin Halpern, author of the Twitter feed @ShitMyDadSays, the book Shit My Dad Says , Surviving Jack is based on Halpern's second book I Suck At Girls and is all about the author's tumultuous teen years. The star of the show (the Justin character) is Frankie Dunlevy (played by Connor Buckley), the high schooler "just trying to figure things out." But the real thing that holds this sitcom together is Frankie's relationship with his ex-military dad Jack (Law and Order: SVU's Christopher Meloni) who becomes the full-time guy in charge when his mother, Joanne (Rachael Harris) goes to law school.
There are many reasons why you should tune into Surviving Jack Thursday at 9:30 p.m. tonight on Fox. Here are just a few of them:
Jack will be your new favorite TV dad.
Jack is a TV dad like we've never seen before — he's neither an hapless schlub or an overbearing control freak. Instead, he takes a pragmatic, no-nonsense approach to parenting. Want to ask a girl out? Just ask her out and don't cry about it. Want to try out for the baseball team? Be prepared to get soaked with a hose at 4AM. He's not interested in coddling his children and instead tosses out life lessons in the same way that your most blunt friend will tell you how she feels about your heinous new top. He's doesn't think he's mean — he just knows he's right. And you know what? Jack almost always is.
Because we are all Frankie.
Frankie is a quintessential 90s teen who doesn't totally get it yet, and nothing could be more relatable. He's neither a "geek" nor a "cool kid," and, like most 15-year-old boys, he cares about few things: his friends, girls, baseball, and the acceleration of puberty. He plays crappy guitar. He's embarrassed constantly by his mom. He's loyal to his friends to the point of recklessness. Basically, he's you when you were in high school.
I don't know where Fox has been hiding actor Connor Buckley, but it speaks volumes that this young actor (whom I cannot even find a Wikipedia page about so I may need to start one) plays so well off of experienced actors like Christopher Meloni and Rachael Harris. Yes, it's Christopher Meloni's show, but without Buckey, the show would lose its heart. Can we start a fan site for this actor already?
You can witness the first healthy marriage in all of sitcom history.
Sitcom marriages have a tendency to the route of non-stop bickering spouses, and I'm sick of it. Surviving Jack isn't about the marriage between Joanne and Jack, but it's sure nice to see Jack not only adore his wife, but also respect her as a person. Jack encourages his wife to go after her dreams and attend law school. He's not shy about saying that she's one of the few people he actually wants to spend time with. It's a far cry from the "shrill wife" and "lazy husband" jokes that we see over and over again on family sitcoms.
You'll wish George and Mikey were your high school friends.
George (Kevin Hernandez) and Mikey (Tyler Foden) are Frankie's bros, but their lines are often my favorite parts of the episode. George has the hots for Frankie's 90s princess older sister, and Mikey likes to eat pickles in the back of her car. Hilarity ensues.
There's a 90s version of Haley Dunphy, and she's awesome.
Surviving Jack may be all about Frankie's teen years, but let's not forget his amazing older sister, Rachel. She's Surviving Jack's answer to Haley Dunphy of Modern Family — the cool, pretty girl who maybe doesn't always get it. She's the embodiment of shallow, and yet, she's also fiercely independent and 100 percent her own person, as is evidenced by the fact that she took a political stance against the "grinding ban" at the homecoming dance.
It's genuine without being sappy.
Yes, Surviving Jack has a few good ole' life lessons thrown in there for good measure. Go after the girl. Value your friends while you can. Don't let the man stop you from dancing up on your boyfriend like you're in a Nelly video. It's sweet, heart-warming, and wrapped up in a delightfully funny, quirky box.
Tune in to Surviving Jack Thursday at 9:30 p.m. on Fox.