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'Breeders' Reproduces a Typical Sitcom With FX-Friendly Language
March 2, 2020  | By David Hinckley
 


Breeders
 seems like a strange sitcom to show up on FX.

It's strange because Breeders, which premieres Monday with back-to-back episodes at 10 p.m. ET, feels like the same basic exasperated-family sitcom we've seen for years on broadcast networks, differentiated mostly by an ocean of four-letter words.

Paul and Ally, played impeccably by Martin Freeman (top) and Daisy Haggard (top), have two children, Luke and Ava, maybe 6 and 4, and these kids drive them nuts.

Luke (George Wakeman) and Ava (Jayda Eyles), to be fair, would drive any parent nuts. They fight all the time. They wake up every night, yelling, "Mommy!" or just to mix things up a little, "Daddy!"

Luke says he can't sleep because he's afraid their apartment is going to catch on fire. What if it does, he asks, and we can't get out the window because it's locked? We can get out, explains Paul. We just keep it locked because we want to keep burglars out.

"Burglars?" says Luke, his eyes widening. "Do we have burglars?"

Ava yells at Mommy to wake up when Mommy falls asleep while telling them a story for the sixth time at 4 a.m.

In other words, Luke and Ava are perfectly normal kids. Their annoying side just gets highlighted to create the level of drama required for a sitcom.

Naturally, Breeders also introduces a few other off-center characters, like Ally's estranged father Michael (Michael McKean, looking none the worse for having incinerated himself on Better Call Saul).

Michael gets in everyone's way, of course. He also exacerbates the already tangible friction between Paul and his own father, Jim (Alun Armstrong), who had a slightly different experience with parenting. He left it all to his wife.

Paul and Ally, to their credit, don't do it that way. They share it all. They also care deeply for each other. They just find their lives constantly disrupted by the unending demands of Luke and Ava, who have no idea they are demanding. They're just kids.

As any sitcom viewer can tell, we've seen this before, and we've seen the multiple shadings with which parents can respond, from the bottomless patience and empathy of the old Father Knows Best days right up to Married…with Children.

Breeders doesn't seem to have any higher aim than mining laughs from the inevitably futile attempts of parents to cope with the impossible behavior of young children, compounded by its ripple effect on the grownups. It's not a bad idea. There's a rich vein of laughs here, and hundreds of millions of potential viewers who know exactly what Breeders is talking about.

It still feels odd that the only significant new element FX brings to this sitcom table is f-words.

When Paul yells at the kids, he uses them like he's pouring sugared breakfast cereal. Nor does he do it to make a particularly strong point. That's just how he, Ally, and all the other grownups talk.

Most network family sitcoms, frankly, don't stay funny for too long once we know the core joke. Despite the skill of Freeman and Haggard, Breeders needs an extra element or two if it plans to stick around.

 
 
 
 
 
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