There’s an old saying that Hollywood is out of ideas. That may be true, but looking at the Fall TV comedy lineup, it’s clear that Hollywood isn’t out of children. Pretty much every single new comedy this fall is about children. So, it may seem like there are children everywhere. Hoards of children, scores of tweens, infinite amounts of teens… In reality, though, there are maybe only five kids you’ll see all year on network comedy.
Okay, five types of kids….
1) The Cloyingly Precocious Boy
See: About A Boy, Growing Up Fisher, The Goldbergs, Back In The Game, Mom, Trophy Wife
For generations, they’ve graced our screens. They’ve been trained by community theater programs, private acting coaches and pushy stage moms to win our hearts with their goofy glasses, adorable dimples and preternaturally clever retorts. So, it’s not like the cloyingly precocious nerdy boy is a new character in sitcoms; it’s just that there are a hella lot of them in the 2013 Fall TV lineup.
This season, however, there’s a new trend. A large portion of them aren’t content just to show up and deliver a punchline on cue and then fade away into the ensemble. These precocious boys are the protagonists, the narrators and the comedic everymen of the new shows.
So, if you were always a fan of precocious boys, you’re in luck. If you still associate every male child actor with Cousin Oliver, you may want to stick to Fox or cable.
Best of the Bunch: Griffin Gluck as Danny Gannon on Back in the Game. This kid is less nerdy and cloying, and more socially awkward and bad at sports. Plus, he has the guts to kiss a boy in order to diffuse a fight and impress a girl. The kid may be terrible at catching baseballs, but he’s got balls. The series, which stars Psych’s Maggie Lawson as a single mom and James Caan as her alcoholic father, is pretty much the Bad News Bears in primetime, so there are a LOT of precocious kids on this show, but at least the main one is likable and inoffensive.
2) The Sassy, Know-It-All Tween (Or Teen) Girl
See: The Michael J. Fox Show, Sean Saves The World, Trophy Wife, Growing Up Fisher
We’re very fortunate that so many of the new comedies debuting this fall feature sassy, know-it-all tween and teen girls, because who has greater life wisdom than someone in the 13-17 year old age bracket? All of these girls are sassy, they’re good with a retort, and they’re experts at the eye roll.
Best of the Bunch: Juliette Goglia as Eve on The Michael J. Fox Show. NBC’s The Michael J. Fox Show and ABC’s Trophy Wife probably have the most potential out of all of Fall’s TV pilots. Trophy Wife’s strengths lie in the writing and in the performances of the adult leads, but The Michael J. Fox Show’s strength is its cast’s chemistry (and the fact that Michael J. Fox is still Michael J. Fox). Goglia is a huge part of the show since the pilot is built in part as a film project she’s doing for school and unlike a lot of the other sassy pants gals gracing TV screens this fall, her character gets put in her place for being a sassy, know-it-all. Oh, and she has a keytar.
3) The Hapless Older Brother
See: The Goldbergs, The Michael J. Fox Show, Welcome to the Family
Oof! It’s so hard to transition from being a boy to being a man. You’ve got to think about things like driving tests and kissing girls and launching a tech company and giving up on your dreams to marry your ditzy pregnant girlfriend. Wait. What? The awkwardness of adolescence (and early adulthood) is a gold mine for comedy, or at least attempts at comedy.
Best of the Bunch: Conor Romero as Ian on The Michael J. Fox Show. Romero shines for a lot of the same reasons that his co-star, Goglia, does. However, Romero also stands out because he has some of the best line readings of any comic actor (child, teen or adult) in the Fall TV season. That translates as, “The way he says words makes those words funny.”
4) The Troublemaking Daughter
See: Mom, Welcome to the Family, and the sassy tweens from Trophy Wife and Sean Saves the World can also fit into this category.
Man, all teen girls want to do is sneak out at night, sneak their boyfriends in their rooms and get into trouble. Oh, and concerts. Teen girls love concerts. According to this fall’s crop of new sitcoms, if a girl can’t be sassy, she best be a whole lot of trouble. Sometimes, a sassy girl can also cause trouble.
Best of the Bunch: Ella Rae Peck as Molly on Welcome to the Family. The jury is still out on whether or not this Mike O’Malley-led pilot about two families from different racial and economic groups can blend will work, but Ella Rae Peck is an absolute delight as the sweet, yet ditzy, pregnant teen Molly. Not to mention, Peck has that kind of star quality that makes her pop offscreen. She’s incredibly winsome in the same way Blake Lively was in her teens, but seems to have better acting chops. Keep an eye out for her in the future.
5) The Man-Child
See: We Are Men, About A Boy, The Millers, The Crazy Ones, Dads
There’s nothing better than a fully grown male who behaves like a child. Many of the male adult leads in this year’s pilot season are either bro-ing out as singletons, dodging responsibility or having to live with their parents again.
Best of the Bunch: David Walton as Will in About A Boy. The best and biggest laughs in the pilot come from David Walton’s attempts to woo a single mom in the first five minutes. Walton has been simmering for a while in supporting roles in other sitcoms (most notably as Jess’s hot boyfriend last season in New Girl). He’s definitely a sitcom star. Time will tell if About A Boy is his ticket to the top of the primetime heap, but he’s definitely going to get there eventually.
[Photo Credit: ABC, CBS, NBC]