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Physical comedy extraordinaire Kaitlin Olson is best known for her almost frighteningly consistent comedic chops on the long-running It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but she is finally getting her chance to shine as the lead of her own broadcast TV series with Fox's The Mick. Perhaps surprisingly, this was the best thing possible for Fox, Olson and audiences in general, as The Mick is a laugh-out-loud riot that automatically enters the running for best new series of 2017.
The Mick was created by brothers and It's Always Sunny writers Dave and John Chernin, and that won't be the most surprising thing in the world to anyone, as the two shows do share DNA expressed best through Kaitlin Olson's (lower middle) class act Mackenzie "Mickey" Murphy. Always looking for an easy way out, Mickey is introduced to audiences as she hits up her insanely wealthy sister for money, but unwittingly gets drafted as a surrogate guardian when said sister and her husband are carted off to jail for financial-based reasons. The Pemberton children she's put in charge of are the 17-year-old feminista Sabrina (Sofia Black D'Elia), the "Alex Keaton in puberty" troublemaker Chip (Thomas Barbusca), and the guidance-lacking tot Ben (Jack Stanton). Even if Mickey had a dozen arms, she would still have her hands full with these kids...and also vodka.
As you might have guessed (or seen in the promos Fox has been running), Mickey is the opposite of parental material. The biggest difference between Mickey and It's Always Sunny's Sweet Dee is that Dee at least pretends to be above her place in life and occasionally tries to escape it, while the Mick-meister isn't so deluded, and it might be kind of sad if Olson wasn't so damned brilliant at unabashedly embracing a lifestyle driven by popping pills and filling wine glasses. In the first episodes screened for critics, her moral vacuum affects her attempts to persuade Sofia to use protection during sex, to celebrate Ben's birthday party (after the fact) and to advise Chip on handling a bully at school. No advice columns in her future.
The talented and completely game cast is supported superbly by two standouts. Raising Hope and Last Man Standing vet Carla Jimenez could not be better as the Pemberton's housekeeper Alba, who finds a form of liberation once Mick enters the picture; Jimenez and Olson are so fun to watch together, and one now wonders why the former hasn't been on It's Always Sunny yet. As well, there's improv actor (and Mick writer Scott MacArthur taking on his first big TV role as Mickey's hilariously slovenly romantic foil Jimmy, who soon slobs his way into the house on a more permanent basis, offering his own butchered mentorship to the children.
The immature humor of The Mick fit well into the ribald territory of Kaitlin Olson's other series, as well as many Fox comedies of yesteryear, but what really puts it at the top of the heap is the performances and the editing. With her Groundlings background, Olson can sell any joke she's given, more so if she looks like a drunken hot mess at the same time, and Sabrina and Chip's typical rebellious behavior feels far more justified when put in the face of Mickey's inherent awfulness. Thomas Barbusca has made an art out of playing worst-nightmare characters, from Netflix's Wet Hot American Summer series to that Peter Pan Geico commercial, and Chip's extreme wealth adds a nice nuance to the role. And the depth of all that talent is made even more effective by how well the jokes and scenes are cut together.
Fox offered up several new shows in 2016 that won both audiences and critics over, and 2017 will see the network debuting new entries in the 24 and Prison Break universes, as well as other high-profile dramas. But The Mick will definitely kick the new year off in the most uniquely degenerate way, and here's hoping viewers everywhere are left with the same busted guts as me. Now where's that absinthe-spiked champagne I made before starting this review?
The Mick makes it official debut on Fox on Sunday, January 1, 2017, at 8:30 p.m. ET, but you can find it hitting its normal primetime slot on Tuesday, January 3, at the same time. Two visits from Mickey in one week will do your body good, believe me. And you'll also want to hit up our midseason premiere schedule to see what else is hitting the small screen in the new year, such as another new season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
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