You will excuse anyone who thinks the new Fox series The Mick could have been titled Aunt Buck.
Kaitlin Olson’s Mackenzie Murphy, nickname The Mick, is a rootless, irresponsible, screwed-up, broke, obnoxious and self-centered drifter who somehow ends up as the caretaker for teen/tween nieces and nephews.
This is not her first choice, or even her 1000th choice. She likes being rootless and irresponsible. But The Mick, which premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. ET before moving to Tuesdays at 8:31 p.m. ET, rudely rips her away.
The sitcom world can be cruel like that.
The fast-moving blizzard of events that catapults Mackenzie into her new gig won’t win any awards for credibility.
But it’s not looking to. Olson, who is also an executive producer, has created a broad comedy in which much of the world and many of the people in it are exaggerated.
The Mick is the quarterback here, and most of the jokes run through her over-the-top narcissist. When we first meet her, she’s walking through a supermarket popping the top off cans of whipped cream, sucking out a big slurp, then putting the can back on the shelf.
She has a sister who at one time wasn’t much more responsible. But while dancing topless at a strip club, the sister hit the lottery and snagged a guy whom she married and who apparently made millions in the financial game.
Mackenzie and the sister seem mostly estranged. But Mick decides to show up at a bash her sister is throwing at her fancy place in Greenwich and gets her equally self-centered and much stupider boyfriend to drive her there.
When they arrive, Mackenzie picks up a gallon container of juice, takes a big swig and spits it out. Seems the boyfriend filled it with gasoline, because “I didn’t want to pay Greenwich prices.”
This is noted not because it’s a landmark moment in television comedy, but because it illustrates the kind of humor on which The Mick is constructed.
Where Uncle Buck was a decent guy who can’t help screwing up, Mackenzie long ago decided being decent wasn’t worth the trouble.
Olson doesn’t exactly come blind to this character. She’s best known for playing Sweet Dee, one of the oblivious narcissists on FXX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
Fox is no doubt hoping Sunny fans will enjoy seeing Olson take it to the next level – though being on a broadcast rather than a cable show does mean she will have to watch her mouth and rein in some of the raunchier jokes.
In any case, Mackenzie’s sister and her rich husband are busted at this party for massive financial fraud. As they’re being led away, the sister tells Mackenzie she has to watch the kids overnight, until this “misunderstanding” is straightened out.
The kids, naturally, turn out to have their own quirks.
Teenager Sabrina (Sofia Black D’Elia, who recently played the murder victim on The Night Of), is sharp-tongued and smart, though not as street-smart as Mackenzie.
Middle child Chip (Thomas Barbusca) has inherited a sense of entitlement. He tells his pre-teen brother Ben (Jack Stanton), who still has vestiges of innocence and normalcy, that their parents will buy their way out of the fraud charge, then sue for defamation, because money always triumphs over justice.
Mackenzie naturally screws up the simplest things, like getting the kids to school, though she does bond with the Latina housekeeper Alba (Carla Jimenez).
Then she gets a call saying her sister and hubby have fled the country, so she’ll have to watch the kids “for a little longer.
You might think “Huh?” except that we know sitcoms don’t have to have credible premises. They only have to set up a situation that some decent-sized swath of viewers can embrace.
In this case, we might expect Mackenzie and the kids will learn from each other and perhaps live better lives.
The question is whether The Mick can move in that direction or whether it would lose its central joke if it softened the cartoonish, almost slapstick persona Olson has established.
Alternatively, the creators may hope that if an obnoxious person hangs around long enough, we will eventually get used to that person and maybe find an attraction.
Hey, that technique has worked on much bigger canvasses than sitcoms.