If you caught either episode of Melissa & Joey last night, you may have thought that ABC Family was running reruns of failed sitcoms during it’s 8 o’clock hour. Melissa & Joey is by no means offensive, and I wouldn’t even call it awful – it’s fine to have on in the background, or on mute – but it’s not good, and is a really strange programming choice for a cable network in 2010. Aside from a few stray jokes about texting and a brief shot of what looked like a Twitter account, it’s easy to think this show was made 10 years ago, and has been growing dusty on the shelf of some TV executive ever since.
After a surprisingly successful made-for-TV movie, My Fake Fiance, Melissa Joan Hart (Clarissa Explains It All) and Joey Lawrence (Blossom) give their best shot at 21st century sitcom success. They’re both likable, despite Hart’s idea that comedic delivery rests solely on over-exaggerated facial expressions and shouting. And even with fewer hair follicles, Joey Lawrence is still somewhat of a dreamboat. Still, I’d much rather see Clarissa’s friend Sam enter the window via his trusty ladder or hear Blossom’s friend Six speed-chat. I’d even settle for a “whoa.”
The show brings back all kinds of ’90s sitcom nostalgia, from the laugh track (which is a lot less common these days thanks to The Office and 30 Rock) to the home with two staircases. (Was I the only child who wished I lived in a house like this? Literally every show from Growing Pains, Boy Meets World, to Full House conveniently had two staircases, making wacky sitcom hijinks all the more possible). Melissa & Joey also recycles the same tropes many of these popular shows used, the most obvious being an unconventional family. Mel is a reformed bad girl who now has a high-powered job with the city when she unexpectedly inherits the responsibility of raising her teenage niece and nephew. She’s not a single parent for long, as she hires the help of – gasp – a male nanny, Joey, a fallen commodities trader. Gender role reversal, how modern! You know that there will be some sort of sexual tension between the two; each will fall for the other at the wrong time, then try to ignore the signs by dating other people before there is a big declaration of love (most likely at an airport) during the season finale.
Did you watch last night, PopWatchers?