‘Odd Mom’s’ winning ways
Bravo’s first scripted comedy makes a smart antidote to ‘Real Housewives’ fare.
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.
JILL KARGMAN plays a delightfully hapless parent caught amid the uber-wealthy in “Odd Mom Out.”