Paul Asay

TV Series Review

“I would die for those kids, Ally! But often, I also want to kill them.”

Many a parent might relate. We brand parenthood as a wonderful state of being, romanticizing it in everything from cards to detergent commercials to, let’s face it, sermons. But the day-to-day reality can sometimes feel more like a slog up K2 than a frolick in a butterfly-besotted meadow.

Paul and Ally realize that now … when it’s too late to do anything about it.

Family Circus

Oh, Paul and Ally thought they’d be great parents. As they sipped wine on one of their romantic Italian getaways, they imagined how wonderful it’d be to have a couple of kids.

But those fantasies came from their own B.C. era—that is, Before Children. Once they had Luke and Ava (about 7 and 4 years old, respectively), Paul and Ally realized that their children love to scream, hate to sleep and have mastered only one skill out of the gate: pushing all of their parents’ angry buttons.

“I am not a nice man,” Paul admits to his father. “I thought I was. But … I am medically deranged when they wind me up.”

Fate throws a third child into the mix—a grinning, graying fellow who technically is Ally’s dad. And unlike Luke and Ava, you can’t just send Michael to his room when he gets out of line.

Yes, Ally and Paul love their children. But when it comes to actually dealing with those children, a few other four-letter words seem to spring up with alarming regularity.

Dare to Discipline

FX’s half-hour comedy Breeders is meant to be a darkly whimsical look at parenthood—one that tries to balance bleak, wry realism with uncomfortable laughter and a hint of heart.

I’ll say this: It’s got the bleak and wry and uncomfortable bits down pat.

The heart, unfortunately, often gets lost in all the profanity. And man, do we hear a lot of it. Paul and Ally pepper their own dialogue—and their fights with their children—with more f-words than a Martin Scorsese triple feature. They use so much variety in their obscene exchanges that one wonders if they’ve got dirty-language thesaurusi in every room in the house. The fact that their kids are exposed to it all—and, you’d assume, will eventually emulate their parents—makes the dialogue feel even more discomforting.

Naturally, Ally and Paul (whom FX call “partners,” suggesting the two aren’t actually married) fall short in the parenting department at times, too. It’d hardly be a dark comedy if they didn’t, of course, and Breeders is hardly meant to be aspirational television. Still, all the drinking and shouting and only half-comical threats being tossed about can make this show feel oppressive—as if we’re sinking into Paul and Ally’s world, too.

Neither parent seems to have any appreciation for faith or any understanding of a more transcendental purpose in life. So, for all its weaknesses, the show’s title feels right on point. The name Breeders neatly strips away all the beauty and joys of parenting and distills having children down to a bleak, biological and slightly difficult-to-justify urge—one without reason, one without purpose other than to plant our DNA in another living thing, who’ll then eventually do it all over again.

Breeders can be funny. It can even, rarely, be insightful. But let’s face it: No one needers these Breeders.

Episode Reviews

March 2, 2020: “No Sleep”

Luke, who’s Paul and Ally’s little boy, is terrified that a house fire is going to kill them all. “He asked Father Christmas for a sprinkler system,” Ally says. The upshot: Luke’s so terrified that he can’t go to sleep, leading to a sleepless night for everyone else.

We see a series of flashbacks as well: In one, Paul keeps a stranger’s child entertained in an Italian restaurant, allowing a grateful mom and dad to eat at peace. (Ally and Paul find the whole moment erotic and talk at length about how they need to go back to their hotel and have sex.) In another, Ally’s mother holds newborn baby Luke in the hospital. “Nice,” she says of the name. “Biblical. Or Star Wars.” In a third, one of Paul’s and Ally’s childless friends offers an uncomfortable and inappropriate explanation of why he can’t father children, which culminates in him offering each of them 800,000 pounds for Ava.

We hear jokingly uncomfortable references to pedophilia and “sex crimes.” Two trash collectors (and recovering alcoholics) knock on Paul’s door and tell him they’re concerned with the number of liquor bottles they find in his recycling. (He recalls the conversation when he is tempted to drink a glass of whiskey during a sleepless night.) We see Paul, Ally and others drink wine and beer.

Paul threatens to kill two very loud passers-by. (They laugh at him and walk on.) He also jokingly talks about killing his own kids, and Ally has a moment where he believes he just might. In an effort to get Luke to stop obsessing about fires, Paul accidentally causes his boy to be scared of drowning and burglars, too. There are references to prostitution and defecation.

At about 3 a.m., Paul calls a televangelist and starts arguing about theology—telling the pastor that a God who demands sacrifice when he knows we’re going to sin is a “psychopath.” Paul hurts his knuckles on something, and Ally finds a bloodstained batch of bedclothes. Characters say the c-word three times, the f-word at least 40 and the s-word three times. We also hear “a–,” “pr–k,” “p-ss” and “t-t.” God’s name is misused twice, and Jesus’ name is abused a half-dozen times (once combined with an f-word).

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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