Imaginary Mary Is A Fast Paced, Quirky Family Comedy
ABC Funny is consistent, family comedies with a varied approach to what defines family and comedy. For example, The Middle is the fly-over state, middle income struggle of what many families deal with on an every day basis. The Goldbergs is the Northeast, geeky goodness, 80s version of family. Black-ish provides the hilarious interpretation of an upper income family, with a young daughter who may-or-may-not be out to destroy her father’s co-worker.
Fresh Off the Boat has the nineties covered and the early era of hip hop, Modern Family has the expansive designation of how families relate to one another, while American Housewife gives us one of the best glimpses into the reality of being an unapologetic mother of three while embracing who you are as a woman, in a no holds barred sense.
ABC’s new comedy, “Imaginary Mary” gives us a look at a sometimes neurotic, always fast paced single father family, with a girlfriend of equally fearful, uncertain tendencies (Jenna Elfman). The first episode revealed that Alice (Elfman) has a childhood friend, Mary (Rachel Dratch) who happens to be imaginary. Dratch was known for her Debbie Downer character on SNL a few years ago and is now showing that magic again, with a more sympathetic character, still holding a somewhat negative worldview.
Ben (Stephen Schneider) is raising three children Andy (Nicholas Coombe), Dora (Matreya Scarrwener) and Bunny (Erica Tremblay) in what ABC calls a romantic comedy. Perhaps it is, but I see it as a family comedy with a romantic touch.
Andy lives in an unreasonable fear of stepping out to get his drivers license, or even facing his fears, in general. Alice finds herself an unwilling participant in playing a mother-figure to Ben’s kids, or at least finding a balance in who she is to them and who she’s used to being. Her desire to keep a distance with that role leads to the realization of a part of herself to which she was uncomfortable.
Adam Goldberg’s style of comedy is quite different than other ABC comedies, which is what set’s this show apart from many of the others. The pacing is “Marx Brothers” fast. In other words, there will be jokes you will miss because the sheer numbers in any given minute doesn’t give the viewer time to catch their breath. The closest thing we’ve seen to this style in recent years (aside from The Goldbergs) is Arrested Development, with even the most casual fan having to watch episodes multiple times to hear every line and actually grasp what they’ve missed.
Over the top characters are actually written in a way that us relatable, which is nearly impossible to most writers. The ability to take an adult character like Alice, with unnatural fears and an imaginary friend, making her into someone we collectively can say we see as part of ourselves, is a sign of success in television. This series fits in well with the ABC families of comedy and gives us an even more modern view of family life.
Part of the value of a family show like Imaginary Mary is our willingness to give it time to grow on us. Character development is crucial when dealing with the unfamiliar and unusual. This show is heavy on both, but in a way that is both witty and fun.