If you call your sitcom I Hate My Teenage Daughter, you're practically begging critics to riff on the title. And with headlines like "You May Hate Teenage Daughter" and "I Hate My Teenage Daughter: The feeling is mutual," reviewers have been happy to oblige. Fox's new comedy series, which debuts Wednesday night, stars Jamie Pressly (an Emmy-winner for My Name Is Earl) and Katie Finneran (a Tony-winner for Broadway's Promises, Promises) as best friends and mothers of two vile, "mean girl" teenagers. The two moms, victims of bullies back in high-school, are terrified of their daughters. And critics are none too impressed, either. Here, five reasons the show is so easy to hate:
1. The characters are all unlikable
This show should be called "We Hate Every Character on Our Own Sitcom," says James Poniewozik at TIME. Rather than create a cast of characters who are relatably awful, or whom the audience "loves to hate," Teenage Daughter seems to have "active contempt for everyone involved." Each character's insecurities, flaws, and manipulative tendencies are so thoroughly exploited that the character becomes irredeemable. Finneran's Nikki, specifically, is a "walking embodiment of stereotypes about unhappy single mothers and older single women."
2. It doesn't live up to the premise
I Hate My Teenage Daughter "is all title and not much show," says David Hinckley at The Daily News. The name elicits a chuckle in anyone who has ever had or known a teenage girl. The show elicits… nothing, certainly not laughs. It's a shame, because the premise had potential for great domestic satire, says Poniewozik, the kind of "funny, outrageously rude family sitcom Fox built its brand on." Instead, we get a "tired and slightly depressing mess."
3. It squanders its cast's talents
Pressly and Finneran are incredibly talented comediennes, says Alan Sepinwall at HitFix. But, in Teenage Daughter, they are reduced to flailing around, "hoping that a lot of manic energy will make up for what's lacking on the page." It doesn't work. More depressing: Chad L. Coleman, the brilliant actor who portrayed Cutty on The Wire, is squandered as Nikki's deadbeat ex-husband. It's "almost as sad as Al Pacino going from The Godfather to Jack & Jill."
4. The writing is terrible
Even the best sitcoms occasionally resort to lines of corny dialogue to set up jokes, says Tom Conroy at Media Life. But you're in trouble when the entire script "reads like a series of artificial setups to mediocre punchlines." At one point, Nikki's ex-husband tells her, "It's unfortunate that you have to resort to name-calling." Groaningly, she responds, "It's unfortunate you're such a dumbass." The pilot is brimming with similarly lazy jokes and strained plot lines.
5. The "icky" brother-in-law plot line
The show's one intelligent character and his interactions with Pressly's Annie offer "the kind of romantic touch" that could make the show relatable, says Poniewozik. Absurdly, however, that character is Annie's brother-in-law. How the writers thought this romance "would be interesting and not icky" is beyond me, says Conroy. When Annie jokes that falling for one's brother-in-law should be verboten, she's right on the money.