In Canada: Sundays, 7:30pm ET/PT, Family
Some shows just invite you to slate them, simply by their names. Remember Bonekickers? Even if it hadn’t been absolutely dreadful in and of itself, there was that name, begging for me to hate the show.
Raising Expectations isn’t in Bonekickers‘ league, in that sense, but it’s definitely an invitation to pre-emptively reply “Yes, but you’re still absolute sh*te. Who told you you were above average?” After all, most Canadian comedies are dreadful. There’s about one good one a decade.
Yet here’s one that stars, wait for it, not just Jason Priestley from Beverly Hills 90210 and Tru Calling but also Molly Ringwald. Yes, Molly Pretty in Pink Ringwald.
We’re talkin’ ’bout my generation here – raising expectations indeed.
So I was prepared to give Raising Expectations the benefit of the doubt, despite airing on Canada’s Family channel and having the following plot:
The Wayneys are an amazing family. They’re good looking, smart, talented, athletic, and popular. Paige Wayney is a best-selling author, and her husband Wayne is an architect. They have worked hard at raising their five children to be “multi-exceptional”, and they succeeded… four times. Adam is an honours students and football quarterback. Bentley is a brilliant poet and cellist. Conner is a gifted dancer and actress. Derek is a master of gadgets. Their youngest son, Emmett, is a work in progress. Emmett may not be the most academic, athletic, or artistic of the Wayneys, but he makes up for that with his “street smarts”.
If I could punch a plot, I would. But I really wanted to like it, all the same.
Unfortunately, the show isn’t funny. There’s a mild titter every so often and the show saves its sole actual laugh for literally the final line of dialogue, but the humour’s generally of the order of background radiation, rather than Silicon Valley.
In part, that’s because it’s
Canadian intended for a family/young audience, and the show isn’t pushing any boundaries. It’s not even aware there are boundaries to be pushed, it’s so young and innocent. It’s coming to this humour thing as though its audience is as equally young and innocent that they’ve never heard any jokes before and so all the old ones can still be used. You might as well be watching early 90s Canadian-British co-production Spatz for all the differences:
Perhaps that’s a little unfair, since so much of this first episode is as down with modern kids’ social media obsession as The CW’s Containment, with Ringwald’s online lecture garnering troll comments that not only are mean about Ringwald, but expose Priestley as having lied to her on one of their first dates. The children then use their ‘unique, character-defining, all other characteristics-excluding’ skillsets to organise a SWATing (well, pizza- and poo-ing) the trolls in revenge, while Priestley has to re-retroactively disprove the lie by climbing up a rope with an egg in his pocket (don’t ask).
It’s a bit hard to like any of the kids, though. Apart from the odd choice of three sons, one daughter, all with stereotypical interests and abilities, it’s hard not to look at both Priestley and Ringwald and think “These look like normal people” and then to look at the kids and think, “These look like they’re made of plastic.” Times have changed and standards of on-screen pulchritude have unfortunately increased, but I was genuinely surprised when any of them managed to have a facial expression.
If you’ve got to watch something with your kids, Priestley and Ringwald are a sufficient draw in themselves – and, in fact, toghether – that you could probably make your way through an episode or two without your brain revolting.
Otherwise, stear clear of Raising Expectations and always remember: Caroline laughs and it’s raining all day, she loves to be one of the girls, she lives in the place in the side of our lives, where nothing is ever put straight. She turns herself round and she smiles and she says, “This is it that’s the end of the joke,” and loses herself in her dreaming and sleep, and her lovers walk through in their coaches.