Review

Bravo's 'Odd Mom Out' the real deal in scripted comedy

Robert Lloyd
Contact ReporterLos Angeles Times Television Critic
Bravo's first sitcom, #OddMomOut, is a deft and delightful 'Real Housewives' antidote

Although it makes perfect sense after a moment's reflection, I would not have expected that "Odd Mom Out," Bravo's first situation comedy (and second scripted series), 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 situation 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 easily and winningly. We are all actors often in life, but not every citizen can carry a sitcom.

Kargman 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-to-do 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 — way up — so foreign, almost new, 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, one who probably played CBGB back before it was a John Varvatos boutique. She skateboards, 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 ethnically neutral, 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 mother-in-law, Candace; and "SNL" alumna Abby Elliott as Brooke, the pregnant and thin wife of her brother-in-law, who has a charity that aims to provide "prophylactic gastric bypasses for at-risk 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 the upper-crust life that alternately tempts and repels her. (It also helps that, on the advice of show runners Elisa Zuritsky and Julie Rottenberg, who come from "Sex and the City" by way of "Smash," she gave up Botox for acting.)

One looks hopefully here for the beginning of a trend: basic cable looking beyond the economic expedience and formulaic low thrills of reality programming, to which Bravo has been a major contributor, toward something explicitly invented and potentially substantial.

"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.

robert.lloyd@latimes.com

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'Odd Mom Out'

Where: Bravo

When: 10 p.m. Monday

Rating: TV-14-DL (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14, with advisories for suggestive dialogue and coarse language)

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