Oh joy, another wacky Fox family comedy!
Watching Fox’s Bad Luck Sunday (not as visually spiffy as the retro Beene-vision debut Sunday that the net gave us two weeks ago), I’m still unsure if this most recent theme night referred to the hapless leads of premiering series The Pitts or to the network itself. The creation of two former Simpsons writers (in the future, every sitcom writer will be a former Simpsons writer!), Mike Thacker & Julie Thacker-Sully, The Pitts is a comedy that tells the tale of a preternaturally unlucky family.
Perky dad Bob Pitts (Dylan Baker) and wife Liz (Kellie Waymire) run a Mail Boxes & More, Plus store with the unnaturally optimistic mien of Saturday Night Live‘s old Scotch Tape store entrepreneurs. First time we see son Petey (David Henrie), he’s being exorcised by a priest (“Petey was already a handful,” his parents note, “no need to add Satan to the mix.”), while teen daughter Faith (Lizzy Caplan) agonizes over the fact that no boy’ll ask her out – simply because her last date had his car swallowed up by the earth. You haven’t seen such a one-joke family comedy since the glory days of The Munsters.
Sunday’s ep clearly established the show’s limited parameters: Ma & Pa Pitts hire a babysitter (Melissa Petervan) who turns out to be Bob’s old spurned high school prom date. Naturally, she’s a standard issue psychopath who plans to kill Liz and take her place. She locks Mom, kids and family dog in a large steamer trunk and then prepares to seduce nebbishy Bob. The final slapstick confrontation ends with an amusing parody of the bathtub scene from Fatal Attraction.
“My parents hired a psycho nanny,” Faith tells the young altar boy who’s come to ask her to the prom just as the cops lead the soaking wet would-be murderess off to jail. (Asked if he fears the “Pitts Curse,” the boy blithely answers, “What’s the worst thing that can happen to an altar boy?”) Just another typical day for the Pitts.
Cartoony stuff – and some of it elicits a few good chortles (as when Nanny Shelly in full-blown nutcase mode threatens to epilady Dad’s legs). But I find it telling that this living breathing family is much less believable and multifaceted than either the Simpsons or Hills. They’re sketch characters: the kinds of comic figures that’ll amuse you for a five-minute SNL bit but definitely wear out their welcome after five more minutes. That Fox is sending the Pitts out to carry a half season’s worth of sitcoms strikes me as Worse Luck than anything you’ll ever see on their show.