Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Being a mother is hard. Ask any mom and she’ll tell you. Ask the mom whose son just got an F in gym. Or the one whose daughter poured a whole box of crayons down the toilet to see if the water would change colors. Or the one whose children bring home stray bobcats and ask if they can keep ’em.

But if you think those scenarios are hard, try learning to be a mom when your son is already 27 years old.

Such is the premise of TV Land’s Kirstie, a comedy that tries—and fails—to touch the heart and tickle the funny bone.

Back in the 1980s, fledgling stage starlet Madison Banks put her unplanned-for son up for adoption in order to pursue her career. But now, after the death of his adoptive mother, Arlo’s back in Maddie’s life—looking to build a relationship with his birth mom.

It’s not easy. Oh, Maddie desperately wants to get to know her son. But when you’re a woman who has spent her entire life focusing on one person—herself—swiveling the self-serving camera around toward someone else is like asking Scrooge McDuck to share his latest cache of riches with Donald.

Kirstie is an unremarkable comedy featuring a remarkably talented cast: Kirstie Alley, Rhea Perlman (both of Cheers fame) and Michael Richards (Kramer from Seinfeld) all do what they can to keep this leaky laugher afloat as it wades into crude jokes and crass double entendres. It’s as real as a puppet shadow, as heartfelt as a pre-reform Grinch. Maddie and Arlo’s awkward fledgling relationship makes a pretense of tugging at the ol’ heartstrings, but it feels as phony as a $15 Rolex. There’s no real poignancy here, no emotional charge: just setup and joke, setup and joke.

And that’s a shame. We know the actors here have the chops to stir up some emotion. And Kirstie could explore some very compelling relational dynamics if it had the moxie. Arlo’s trying to reconnect with a mother he never knew. Maddie, who never forgot her little boy, tries to make up for all those lost years. There’s lot of fodder to feed on here.

Alas, the show settles for things like wistful looks and a sacrilegious joke or two about how God gave up His Son too. Then it moves on … to more rimshot ribaldry.

Did Maddie make the right decision when she gave Arlo up for adoption? Who cares, really, the sitcom seems to say. And that leaves the only questionable choice revolving around Kirstie to be why someone might actually watch it.

Episode Reviews

Kirstie: 12-11-2013

“Arlo’s Birthday”

Arlo’s turning 27, and Maddie wants to give him a birthday celebration he’ll never forget—complete with strawberry cake (too bad he’s allergic to strawberries), entertaining clown (who gets kicked out when he starts talking about his need to vomit) and a gift of a royal blue “man action bag.”

“Where is he going?” asks Maddie’s acerbic assistant, Thelma. “A gay rodeo?”

The clown makes lewd quips about his ex-wife and underage birthday celebrants groping him. People giggle about Arlo putting tampons, a rape whistle and birth control in his new man purse. Everyone goes to a bar, and when a chauffeur turns down a drink, he does so by saying, “I never mix booze with weed.”

Maddie reacts to criticism over her adoption choice by saying, “You know who else gave up their only son? God. And you don’t see people giving Him crap for it, do you?” Arlo asks, “So you’re comparing yourself to God?” And she responds, “Only in the sense that we’re both public figures who made questionable parenting choices.”

We hear allusions to promiscuity, drunkenness and a supposed murder behind Billy Joel’s house. Characters say “b‑‑ch” once. God’s name is misused a handful of times.

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Paul Asay
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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