‘Odd Mom’s’ win­ning ways

Bravo’s first scripted com­edy makes a smart an­ti­dote to ‘Real Housewives’ fare.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - ROBERT LLOYD TELE­VI­SION CRITIC robert.lloyd@la­times.com

Although it makes per­fect sense af­ter a mo­ment’s ref lec­tion, I would not have ex­pected that “Odd Mom Out,” Bravo’s first sit­u­a­tion com­edy, would be a cri­tique of the world that is oth­er­wise the net­work’s bread and caviar: the Real Housewives of Do We Re­ally Need An­other One of Th­ese and other sim­i­lar spir­i­tual vic­tims of priv­i­lege the net­work presents as fas­ci­nat­ing and de­sir­able, even as it takes ad­van­tage of them.

For that mat­ter, I wouldn’t have ex­pected Bravo to make a scripted sit- ua­tion com­edy. But it did, and it pre­mieres Mon­day.

Cer­tainly I would not have bet on its be­ing so deft and de­light­ful, or that Jill Kargman, on whose 2007 novel “Momzil­las” the se­ries is based and who at 40 is a first-time actress, would oc­cupy its cen­tral role so win­ningly. We are all ac­tors of­ten in life, but not ev­ery cit­i­zen can carry a sit­com.

Krag­man plays Jill We­ber, who, like Jill Kargman, grew up on New York’s Up­per East Side, back when there was at least “some shame in be­ing rich.” She is still there, a merely well-todo per­son among the ab­surdly wealthy: She’s rich, she ad­mits, “maybe in the nor­mal uni­verse where nor­mal peo­ple live, but be­tween Lex­ing­ton and 5th, I’m a char­ity case…. Peo­ple come to our walk-up for play dates, and they act like I live in a card­board box.”

“Oh, sorry,” she says, as she passes a man living in a card­board box.

The script does strain a bit to man­age th­ese rel­a­tive dis­tinc­tions. At first I took Jill for some­one who had mar­ried up, so for­eign does she seem to her sur­round­ings.

Although she is work­ing hard to get her chil­dren into the right kinder­garten, she lurches to a dif­fer­ent drum­mer. She takes the sub­way, dances in her un­der­wear with her three kids and hus­band, Andy (Andy Buck­ley from “The Of­fice”). That she’s Jewish sets her apart as well; her sta­tus-con­scious in-laws speak of “Jill’s peo­ple” and grow ex­cited when they learn they can add an aris­to­cratic Aus­trian “von” be­fore the We­ber.

“A branch of the fam­ily did resur­face in Ar­gentina in the 1960s,” says Jill’s ami­able lunkhead brother-in-law, Lex (Sean Kleier). “Which is cool.”

Some of this is schematic, to be sure, but it grows more or­ganic as it goes along, helped by a strong cast that also in­cludes Joanna Cas­sidy, from “Blade Run­ner” and “Six Feet Un­der,” as Jill’s moth­erin-law, Can­dace; and “SNL” alumna Abby El­liott as Brooke, the preg­nant and thin wife of her brother-in­law, who has a char­ity that aims to pro­vide “pro­phy­lac­tic gas­tric by­passes for atrisk kids with mor­bidly obese par­ents.”

A doc­tor with a hos­pi­tal job and Jill’s best friend, Vanessa (KK Glick, mak­ing a good im­pres­sion) is from the nor­mal uni­verse where nor­mal peo­ple live; she is also the un­cou­pled char­ac­ter the show can use for dat­ing sto­ries. Like Bethenny Frankel, the Real House­wife You Love to Like, they are brunets in a sea of blond, sig­ni­fy­ing their in­de­pen­dence.

That Kargman, who has some­thing of the young Joan Rivers about her, tem­pered with a touch of Lily Tom­lin, is not a con­ven­tional lead works in her char­ac­ter’s fa­vor; once the show es­tab­lishes its mi­lieu, it be­comes more a cel­e­bra­tion of Jill’s help­less, an­tic oth­er­ness than an out-and-out attack on up­per-crust life. “I’m watch­ing some new re­al­ity show where they pair home­less peo­ple with life coaches,” Vanessa says to Jill over the phone, on which they talk a lot.

“I have so much TV to catch up on,” says Jill.

Bar­bara Nitke Bravo

JILL KARGMAN plays a de­light­fully hap­less par­ent caught amid the uber-wealthy in “Odd Mom Out.”

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