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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

TV Series Review

We don't mess around with the safety of our children these days. Oh, sure, there once was a time when we'd let them run around the neighborhood until dinner, swim unsupervised at the ol' swimming hole and play with large threshing machines. But no longer. Today, if children ride bicycles, we make sure they wear their helmets, elbow pads and, whenever possible, a roll of bubble wrap. If they ride in a car with us, we buckle them into car seats until they turn 27. I'm sure that if someone invented an embeddable tracking device for children, parents would snap it up by the case.

Would any good parent these days dare leave their children unsupervised? Perish the thought. Kids need constant supervision—even, apparently, if the supervisor is a drunken, irresponsible grifter whose idea of a complete breakfast is cake and a bottle of beer.

Meet Uncle Buck, perhaps the worst guardian since Oliver Twist's Fagan. His life consists of a string of broken relationships and empty beer bottles. He's spent so much time in bars that Norm from Cheers would probably tell him to get out a little more. He's made a career of escaping responsibility.

So naturally he's handed the responsibility of helping raise three impressionable youngsters. Because that's what sitcoms are made of.

A Babysitter of Last Resort

Thankfully, the three kids—smart-but-headstrong teen Tia, lawyer-in-the-making Miles and precociously cute Maizy—have a couple of other adults in their lives. Will, Buck's loving, longsuffering brother, is a high-powered architect. Alexis runs a non-profit for endangered girls. Both of them love their three children dearly, but neither have the time to watch them all day.

That's where Uncle Buck comes in.

Granted, Will and Alexis' choice in babysitters doesn't speak well of their decision-making abilities. But the kids have already run off, it seems, most of the qualified nannies in Chicago. It's not as if Will and Alexis had a lot of qualified applicants to choose from.

So Uncle Buck, now blessed with a home (or, at least, a room) and a job, begins to teach these 21st-century urchins the lessons of life just like Mary Poppins might have done—if Mary had been the sort to frequent the corner bar and resell "slightly damaged" televisions to less-than-savory retirement homes, that is. A spoonful of sugar? With Uncle Buck, a bottle of beer makes the medicine go down … particularly if it's seasoned with a dash of chicanery.

It's Not Just Buck's Car That Backfires

ABC's summer sitcom Uncle Buck is loosely inspired by the 1989 John Candy comedy of the same name. (That movie's tagline? "He's crude. He's crass. He's family.") It's obvious that this warm-weather fill-in was never intended to be an aspirational show about healthy family values. Buck is no role model. The fact that he becomes one—albeit in wholly inappropriate, completely messed-up ways—is where the show seeks to mine for laughs. I get that.

Unfortunately, viewers get more than a humorously bad babysitter: They get lots of problematic content, too.

The children, even without Buck's double-edged influence, say and do things most of us would be loath to see our own kids say and do. They swear. They lie. They mislead. In the first episode, Tia dabbles in sexting with an older boy.

When Uncle Buck gets added to the mix, the problems may change, but it's not like anything else changes for the better. Perhaps Uncle Buck does have a valuable lesson or two that might serve the children when they reach adulthood. But his mere presence makes it less likely they'll get there.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And no one involved with this program would suggest that Uncle Buck is worthy of imitation. Again, that's sort of the comedic point.

But you know how it is when you hang around certain people for long enough: You start to pick up a few of their little quirks and mannerisms. How much more true that is of children, who soak up everything the adults around them do. You can see that influence at work in the kids under Uncle Buck's tutelage.

And perhaps in the children who watch it, too.


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Episode Reviews

Uncle Buck: June 13, 2016 "Pilot"
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