There are at least two tried and true ways to kick off a sitcom: Either find a way to force a bunch of characters in the same physical space — an apartment building, a coffee shop, an office — or find a way to give children to someone who wasn’t anticipating having children. If you can combine the two, hey, all the better.
So even if you haven’t heard of the new Fox sitcom The Mick, you’ll likely be familiar with the premise of aimless aunt Mickey (Kaitlin Olson) getting unexpectedly saddled with her nephews and niece. On The Mick, this happens after her rich sister gets arrested for fraud, leading Mickey to crash in her ostentatious Greenwich mansion with her spoiled new kids, all parties eyeing the gulf between them with suspicion and wary disdain.
The Mick doesn’t stray too far from this basic idea in its first few episodes, and there’s only so much mileage the show can get from focusing on “everyone on this show is awful” gags. But with sharp performances and total commitment to the hedonistic material, The Mick still finds a couple new places to explore.
The Mick isn’t interested in personal growth, thanks
One key element of The Mick that sets it apart from other shows where a makeshift family has to make it work is that no one on this show is in any danger of learning valuable lessons from each other by the time the credits roll.
Olson’s Mickey is a booze-soaked meteor of apathy aimed squarely at her new charges, who can’t believe their terrible luck at getting saddled with this freewheeling alcoholic nightmare. She’d love to ditch the kids — she always hated her sister, which is her stance on most people — but living in the lap of luxury in Greenwich sure as hell beats squatting in Rhode Island with loansharks pounding down her door. If she has to hang out with some kids for that, then so be it.
To be a little fair to Mickey, the kids in question — save for the littlest, sweet Ben — are the walking, talking, eye-rolling embodiments of obnoxiously unchecked wealth and privilege. (And to their credit, Sofia Black-D'Elia and Thomas Barbusca give about as good as they get as from Olson as malicious teen Sabrina and
a mini Trump son lawsuit-happy Chip, respectively.)
So instead of coming together by the episode’s end to acknowledge how they can enrich each other’s lives, Mickey and the kids exist more in a constant stalemate. The most progress you can ask of their relationship is that it goes from chaotic evil in the pilot to chaotic neutral by episode two.
There is, however, at least one thing The Mick has that no other show in the family sitcom genre does, and it almost singlehandedly makes the show worthwhile.
Kaitlin Olson has long deserved her own series, and she makes every second count on The Mick
Kaitlin Olson is a comedic bright spot in just about everything she touches, as seen for over a decade in her role as perpetual punching bag Sweet Dee on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. As Mickey, she uses every dirtbag tool in her arsenal, funnels them through a (vaguely more appropriate) network TV filter, and becomes the best part of The Mick by a mile.
In lesser hands, Mickey would be a ne’er-do-well burnout with no redeeming characteristics outside of her superhuman tolerance for whatever chemicals she can funnel into her body. She’s selfish, uninterested in anything that won’t benefit her, and her go-to method for dealing with people she has no patience for is drugging them. (So … yes, she’s basically Sweet Dee, if Sweet Dee could star in a network comedy.)
But The Mick creators Dave Chernin and John Chernin have worked with Olson on Always Sunny, so they know how to play to her strengths — and she rises to the occasion with an escalating series of thrilled smirks.
Accordingly, Olson spends most of the show tossing off acidic insults with a harried grimace. If she were allowed to say on The Mick what FX lets her say on It’s Always Sunny, her catchphrase would probably be, “I don’t have time for this shit” (even though time is pretty much all Mickey does have). But the best examples of how much fun Olson is as Mickey come within the first 10 minutes of the first episode, in two contrasting montages.
In the cold open, we see Mickey careening around a convenience store, downing whipped cream, huffing from its empty canister, slapping shaving cream on her armpits, shaking baby powder down her flannel pajama pants. In this moment, she’s broadcasting her dirtbaggery to the world, because what the hell else does she have to do?
In the second montage, Mickey’s fully taken over her sister’s enormous mansion while the kids are at school. She coaxes her sister’s long-suffering housekeeper Alba (Carla Jimenez) into joining her as she throws herself fully into the task of treating the house like her own personal playground, complete with binge-drinking and wardrobe raiding that ends with the kids finding her passed out in their mother’s wedding dress on the foyer’s marble floor, face-down in a bleeding puddle of red wine.
She’s not exactly the protagonist network comedies are usually built around. But that nihilistic shitshow is exactly the place where Olson — and The Mick — thrives.
The Mick premiered Sunday, January 1 at 8 pm Eastern on Fox. New episodes will then air on Tuesdays at 8:30 pm.