After penniless cook Matt Landis marries businessman Victor Pellet's spoiled daughter Alex, they agree to save money for his dream to start his own restaurant by moving in with the Pellets. For 'outsider' Matt, this starts years of aggravation, mainly because Alex's dad is domineering and remains overprotective, with a strong hold over his daughter. Furthermore various habits and attitudes keep clashing.Written by
Matt Landis (Elon Gold) has just married his sweetheart Alex (Bonnie Sumerville, "Grosse Pointe"). Due to financial problems they are forced to move in with her parents, The Pellets (Jean Smart and Dennis Farina): hi-jinks ensue!
From its wonderfully contrived premise to its traditional multi-camera, studio audience sitcom format, "The In-Laws" is the type of show that is easily instantly dismissed by most people as typical sitcoms. Truth be told, it is pretty disposable. But throw away any pretension and there is some fun to be had between the lines here. Coming to the network in the same year as "Meet My Folks" it might seem like NBC capitalizing on the success of the 2000 Ben Stiller comedy "Meet the Parents". I suspect that NBC's desire to get in on the universally appreciated man-fearing-his-intimidating-father-in-law comedy is the reason the show was pushed out of the gate, but few assembly line series come from a comic's creation and in this case that stand-up act is of comedian Elon Gold.
Gold shows a capable skill with physical comedy and willingness to use it (not many actors of this generation are so willing to embarrass themselves), as well as the classic bumbling newlywed out-of-step with his wife's family traditions. Without even watching the show you can probably guess that Jean Smart and, a laugh out loud funny Dennis Farina are the show's ace in the hole. They definitely are. Farina is an old pro who plays this part like a fiddle with his eyes closed. Veteran sitcom creator Mark Reisman and NBC did a crucially correct thing with this casting. Without them, "In Laws" wouldn't come close to working as much as it does.
"In Laws" is a show of simple joys. This was a shallow, completely inconsequential series hearkening back to a simpler sitcom time - and it appears to know this - recreating with loving accuracy the goofiness of a 70s or 80s family sitcom. Therein lies the show's modest charms. The farcical slapstick, the silly misunderstandings, the simple, cozy living room/kitchen setting. This, ironically, becomes a star in itself amid a wash of modern sitcoms looking for that next great visual gimmick. The show's writing is better than you would expect and Farina's comic delivery sells us on some slight, but clearly present, laughs. As slight as it may seem, this is typically stale material with a dead-end concept I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy - that it works at all (as I think it does) is enough to write home about.
It won't be rerun on USA in the middle of the day with cult sitcoms like "Doctor, Doctor", it won't be released on DVD (nor would I expect it too) and, in fact, it will probably be confused for the 1979 or 2003 movie on this website. But, given the up-hill battle, "In-Laws" was an amusing time-filler and a cute little effort while it lasted.
* * ½ / 4
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