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TV Series Review

Television has become a wasteland filled with pathetic parents, impudent adolescents and dysfunctional families. But that’s not news. What is remarkable is how far Grounded for Life pushes the joke. Malcolm in the Middle may have met its match.

Donal Logue and Megyn Price star as the world’s worst parents, Sean and Claudia Finnerty. Sean got Claudia pregnant in high school. Now, 15 years and three kids later, they still don’t seem capable of donning caps and gowns for graduation, much less rearing their brood. Eldest daughter Lily is 14 and queen of the roost. Nobody messes with her. "Trespassers Will Be Shot" reads the sign on her door. That goes for her two younger brothers and her "stupid" folks.

Sean advises his daughter, "If you’re gonna raise h---, do it with the smart kids. That way you don’t get caught and I don’t have to find out about it." And he wonders why he doesn’t have Lily’s respect. "What the h--- are you doing?" she screams at him. "You live to humiliate me. . . . Why don’t you just go into the bathroom and flush your face?" Intimidated, Sean not only takes her lip, but apologizes for attempting to set even minimal boundaries in her life.

Lily and her brothers attend a Catholic school where they—and their father—tangle endlessly with the nuns. Sean even tries to get a priest to aid him in his "holy war." The cleric will do no such thing, but then turns around and tramples on weighty issues of the faith by participating in a mock exorcism using vodka as holy water. It’s also implied that this man of the cloth lusts over Claudia.

Sitting around the kitchen table, Sean and Claudia frequently drink beer. Sean is so fond of getting drunk that when Lily sneaks off to imbibe at a nearby amusement park, he’s ticked that he wasn’t the one who got trashed, moaning, "I don’t want to be the kind of guy who scolds his kid for gettin’ drunk at Action Mountain. I want to be the guy gettin’ drunk at Action Mountain." Sexual conversations, jokes about pornography and an acceptance of teenage sex also permeate Grounded for Life.

"We’ve got a whole bunch of kids here so we’ve gotta stick it out until they grow up or run away," Claudia groans. "Who are we kidding," retorts her husband, "they’re never going to run away." If only this series would leave home.

Episodes Reviewed: Jan. 10, 17, 24, 31, Feb. 7, 21, 28, 2001

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Steven Isaac

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