It’s no secret that writers for big networks are a bit out of touch with young viewers. Never has this been truer than in the case of “Call Your Mother,” ABC’s new family comedy sitcom. With characters that resemble cardboard cutouts of millennials and dialogue as subtle as blunt force trauma, it’s a wonder how someone could go this long without talking to a person under 35.
Like many modern-day sitcoms, “Call Your Mother” takes the old sitcom formula and injects a massive dose of recognizable Internet culture. The show centers on Jean (Kyra Sedgwick, “Edge of Seventeen”), a helicopter mom inserting herself into the lives of her children after they leave the nest. She moves from Iowa to Los Angeles to check up on her son Freddie (Joey Bragg, “Father of the Year”) and her daughter Jackie (Rachel Sennott, “Shiva Baby”), quickly finding out her children are fighting and desperately trying to rebuild their relationship.
The show does its best to cater to its older audience by portraying millennials as less well-rounded people and more of distillations of easily recognizable cultural markers. Freddie’s awkward, geeky charm, for example, makes him a stand in for the socially awkward gamer type. Jackie’s pretentiousness and obsession with the Internet makes her a typical version of the hyper-online Twitter user. The most blatant caricature is Freddie’s girlfriend Celia (Emma Caymares, “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit”), who plays a stereotypical Instagram influencer. Besides Jean herself, no character has truly humanizing features apart from the personality traits derived from their stereotype. The lack of fleshed-out young characters doesn’t just make the show worse, it is hilariously patronizing to real young people.
Other aspects of the show are no help in any other regard as well. The minor characters of the show are completely bland, and the dialogue lacks any semblance of subtlety. Without the laugh track, there would be no distinction between a joke and just another line of dialogue. Additionally, within the first ten minutes of the show, the audience has gleaned every piece of information about the main characters. It’s a wonder how any other episodes can come after the pilot considering everything that needed to be said was already stated.
All in all, “Call Your Mother” is a formulaic, family-oriented sitcom spiced with “relatable” internet lingo. All the young, millennial characters seem like odd caricatures of different millennial tropes. Using cheap stereotypes of young people to appeal to its largely older crowd is nothing new in the world of sitcoms, but shows like “Call Your Mother” only contribute to the ever widening cultural divide between young and old Americans.
Instead of flat, condensed portrayals of certain demographics in the country, new sitcoms should strive to bridge the age gap by writing about real millennials. It seems the writers of the show wrote characters based on what they think millennials are, instead of talking to real millennials. If you want to write a show about reconnecting with your children, maybe the first step is to call them.
Daily Arts Writer Josh Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.