[07/26/07 - 07:46 AM]
The Futon's First Look: "I Hate My 30s" (VH1)
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

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The network's description: ""I Hate My 30's" is an irreverent comedy about the unique dilemmas that come from leaving your twenties behind and facing the realities and responsibilities of the next phase of life. Making a Living vs. Living the Dream; Settling Down vs. Hooking Up; Raising Kids vs. Raising Hell - such are the timeless conflicts for thirty-something's, and while the endless onslaught of pop psychology and hot technology is intended to make life easier, it's actually adding to the confusion. Think of it as a shot of old fashioned advice on the rocks of validation... with an irony chaser. Each episode takes a widely identifiable cultural phenomenon and approaches it through the skewed (and occasionally ridiculous) perspective of our characters. The work place serves as a convenient spot for our gang to interact, but we spend just as much time exploring their extracurricular activities and private lives. Each episode will deal with and resolve a specific issue but certain character-driven plots will become through-lines for the entire season. Dr. Rod, our unflappable guide, will introduce each episode and the specific issue to be tackled therein. While tonally different than the After School Specials of yesteryear, this show has a similar purpose: TV as a tool for living. The comedic tone comes from the absurd handling of relatable problems, matched with clever observation of the contemporary landscape. References to retro-storytelling will be minimal but maybe gratifying as occasional winks to the audience in the know. As Dr. Rod would say, "I Hate My 30's is about growing up, growing in, and growing over your youth like a scab. It's about watching your best friend totally obliterate his best chance at happiness and then making the same mistake yourself. And above all it demonstrates that, while life does indeed suck balls, at least it only gets worse." You may not learn much from "I Hate My 30's," but you're sure to laugh at the misfortune of your friends as they're devastated by the realization that the life they've imagined is but a faint and fading dream slowly escaping their reach as they sink deeper and deeper into the quicksand of real-life."

What did they leave out: It's VH1's first scripted effort since the short-lived Tori Spelling comedy "noTORIous."

The plot in a nutshell: The Rod Serling-esque Dr. Rod (Ric Barbera), owner of the show's hangout - Dr. Rod's Turn Your Head and Coffee, introduces us to each episode's topic, which generally is along the lines of "being in your 30s sucks because..." We then follow the shenanigans of a group of co-workers at a non-descript white collar company. There's Corey (co-creator Brice Beckham), a bitter divorcee who is rarely with his Bluetooth headset; Chad (fellow co-creator David Frickas), the token nice guy; Travis (Mark Kelly), a tough guy who overcompensates for his vanilla lifestyle; Vicki (Rachael Lawrence), a shrill receptionist with big dreams; Bruce (James Mathis III), an overzealous health nut; Carol (Megahn Perry), the token nice girl; Mandy (Jill Ritchie), the prerequisite slut; Katie (Michele Specht), the one who's actually not a co-worker; and Kyle (Liam Sullivan), the token weirdo. Anywho, plotlines range from Mandy turning Kyle into her fake boyfriend to impress her sorority sisters to Vicki entering a "Battle of the Non-Working Stars" contest to Carol freaking out about her impending 30th birthday. Each week also features some sort of song-and-dance number while an afterschool special-ish segment called "Safety Place With C.L. Fox," in which cast members interact with a hard luck cartoon fox (no, you didn't read that wrong), caps each installment. That's pretty much it from a plot standpoint.

What works: There's a few solid laughs ("When I was a little girl I thought I would be on TV by the time I was 30," Carol says during her birthday speech. "But here I am with all of you and I couldn't be more lukewarm about it."), some amusing shoutouts (any show that mentions the Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestling trainwreck "Over the Top" can't be all bad) and a handful of fun moments (Corey, Bruce and Travis play something called "Mad Max Beyond Pokerdome" that feels straight out of "Family Guy")...

What doesn't: ...but both aspects are constantly drowned out by its over-the-top characters and overdone jokes. Nearly everyone uses the same bug-eyed reaction to convey their feelings and you can almost see the teethmarks in the sets from all the scenery chewing. While the show is certainly meant to be broad, there's something to be said for a little restraint. Not helping the matters is how every episode is literally the same four or five jokes over and over and over... and over (i.e. watch "Daydream Bereaver" and ask yourself if you ever want to hear an air guitar or an extremely-yoked-guy-freaking-out-that-he-might-be-fat joke again.) Boys and girls, nobody wins when jokes are beat to death. The only real oasis then is the aforementioned Dr. Rod, whose dry commentary provides a much needed break from the action. Through him it's obvious the subject matter is ripe for mockery and/or parody, it's just a shame those moments are few and far between.

The bottom line: Obviously any attempt at scripted comedy nowadays should be applauded, I just wish there was more to clap about.

  [july 2007]  

· I HATE MY 30S (VH1)

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