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TV Series Review

This season’s most popular new comedy keeps millions of fans coming back for more by serving up heaping portions of backbiting and insults with sides of randy sexual innuendo and scathing self-deprecation. Still Standing features a working-class Chicago family that’s more interested in hurling rotten fruit than sorting out its differences.

Disdaining the obligatory group hugs so prolific in prime time, Still Standing’s mantra should be, "All strife all the time." Bill Miller (Mark Addy) takes pleasure in demeaning both his brood and his bride. When his wife, Judy (Jami Gertz), thinks he wants to spend a romantic evening together, she exclaims, "You’d do that for me?" He retorts caustically, "Yeah, if I hadn’t already slept with you a gazillion times!" What’s different here from the majority of dysfunctional families on TV, though, is that both Dad and Mom are dolts (usually it’s the blockheaded male contrasted with the got-it-all-together mom). Judy dishes it right back at Bill, telling him on one occasion that she just got home from the bar where she watched the Bears game and let a couple of men hit on her. Bill asks who won. To which she smirks, "The cute blonde guy."

When the clan (including three children ranging from tot to teen) tries to institute a weekly family night, they fail miserably. The consensus is that they just don’t like each other enough to spend time together. "You want to know what the best part of family night is?" a relieved Bill asks Judy after the evening debacle winds down, "When we get to ditch the kids and make out on the couch." Judy likes that idea. "They do sort of get in the way," she says.

Woven into this already stained tapestry is a strident pattern of really bad parental advice (Bill counsels his son on how to avoid becoming a part of the "never-touched-a-booby tribe"), and off-color jokes about everything from sex and drugs to poop and porn. Everyone at the Miller house is proud of their degraded reputation. "If we stopped doing things because of public humiliation, we couldn’t go to the grocery store," Bill crows. "Isn’t it the American dream for kids to do better than their parents? Look at us," Judy calls out, "you’ve got no place to go but up!" The same could be said of family sitcoms.

Episodes Reviewed: Sept. 30, Oct. 28, Nov. 4, 11, 18, 25, 2002

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Steven Isaac

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