30 March 2014 | ockraz
More That 70's Show than $#*! My Dad Says
NOTE: This review is based solely on the pilot episode.
The basic formula for the show seems to be that you take the wistful 'looking backwards at my youth' narrator from 60's nostalgia show The Wonder Years and the family that was at the center of That 70's Show, and then set them down in the 1990's with a Top 20 period soundtrack. Then you cast Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: SVU and Oz) as Red Forman and force him to step up his parenting of his son (the narrator) and daughter while his wife goes to law school.
Surviving Jack is based on the book, I Suck at Girls, by Justin Halpern, so the titular Jack wasn't actually inspired by the character Kurtwood Smith (currently starring in Resurrection) played on That 70's Show. Of course, that wouldn't have been a bad thing, given that he was one of the best things about the show and was woefully underutilized in the early seasons. No, the character of Jack Dunlevy is based on the real life Samuel Halpern, M.D., who is Justin Halpern's father.
This is the second time that the relationship between Justin Halpern and his father has been adapted for the small screen. $#*! My Dad Says cast William Shatner (Star Trek and Boston Legal) as the father, and depicted the time when the adult Halpern was forced to move back into his father's home. Surviving Jack focuses on Halpern's high school years.
As Frankie Dunlevy, the Topher Grace role, Connor Buckley is appealing, but as with $#*! My Dad Says, it's really the father's show. Meloni's turn as Jack is closer to Smith's deadpan than Shatner's over the top hamminess, and that bodes well for the series. The writing is crisp and pretty funny. The supporting roles are all played adequately, with Rachael Harris doing an excellent job as the mother. It looks good so far, and I'm planning to watch again next week.