Published Jul 02, 2013Who's ready for that '90's show? Though nostalgia cycles continue to tighten ever so slightly, we really are far enough past the age of parachute pants, walkmans and inconvenient pornography for the period to become a novelty setting. That's one of the two gimmicks employed to set Surviving Jack apart from the pack.
The other is the premise, wherein a no-nonsense doctor turns into a stay at home dad so that his wife can finish law school. Said doctor is the Jack that requires surviving.
Comically emphasising the distress born of this shake up in the family make up, the show unfolds from the perspective of Jack's son, Frankie (Connor Buckley). It's simple slice of life material, with a future Frankie fondly reflecting on his harsh daddy's penchant for tough love and letting kids today know how easy they've got it. Pre-internet, poor horny teenagers had to watch scrambled satellite porn and steal spank magazines from hobo nesting sites.
To make the most of the potential for kitschy temporal association, "Been Caught Stealing" by Jane's Addiction plays as Frankie and his buddies risk the garbage gauntlet to acquire the stack of paper boobies. The pilot is heavily reliant on period gags – Jack simply reading Jurassic Park is played for laughs, as is his daughter blasting a cassette tape of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch – and while cheap references work as window dressing, if the show has a future it'll be because of Christopher Meloni's stand out performance as the terse patriarch. His blunt zingers and cold, but not unkind, pragmatism can be laugh-out-loud funny.
For example: when the topic of cancer is raised, his idea of comforting his kids is to cheerfully assure them that "cancer's in everyone". If Surviving Jack can strike a balance between setting and character, Fox might have a solid family sitcom on their hands.
Surviving Jack will air on CTV as a midseason replacement in early 2014. (Warner)