Comedy vet Sally Phillips is a strong and appealing lead in ‘Parents’

Sally Phillips is a natural scene-stealer and is always a high point in films and TV shows that feature her in a supporting role. Because of her work with Smack the Pony, she’s also a bonafide comedy legend. On the 2012 sitcom Phillips stars as Jenny Pope, a business executive who finds herself unemployed and living with her parents after beating up a coworker. As if moving in with your parents isn’t bad enough, she also has to drag her unemployed wannabe entrepreneur husband and her two teenagers to live with her parents while she tries to land back on her feet and reestablish herself in the professional world.

Parents is a very good show that addresses a topic that is on a lot of people’s minds today: adults moving back home. With the global economic crash still wreaking havoc on a lot of workers, the humbling experience of moving back home to mom and dad is a difficult and embarrassing experience that a lot of people are going through.

Jenny feels the constricting pressure of having to adjust to living under her parents’ roof. Her husband Nick (Darren Strange) is seemingly one step away from a great business idea, but is really not cut out for the business world. Her daughter Becky (Jadie Rose Hobson) reacts to all of these changes with a sullen attitude and is nonplussed by her new surroundings; her awkward brother Sam (Christian Lee) is equally uncomfortable about everything and feels out of place. Jenny’s parents Alma and Len (Susie Blake and Tom Conti) are supportive and loving, welcoming her with opened arms, despite all of the inconvenience and trouble that goes with having four new people in their home.

A single-camera sitcom, the show is a quirky tale, somewhat reminiscent of ABC’s Modern Family. Each character is given a distinct personality and running joke – interestingly enough, though Phillips is known for her comedic work, she’s often the straight man, anchoring the show with an impish but heartfelt performance. Jenny’s a likable character, despite some questionable character traits and flaws, and the comedienne does a wonderful job portraying a woman that is trying to keep her sanity together. She’s matched by Conti, who gives some gravitas to the proceedings, as her preternaturally patient father. Both actors are great and do some personable work, ably adapting their styles of comedy to suit the low key sometimes wistful tone of the show.

Prematurely canceled before it was able to tie up Jenny’s story – throughout the six episodes of the first series, she tries to crawl her way, scratching and scraping, back to the corporate world, but is continuously thwarted at each turn – Parents doesn’t fit into the television landscape with its reliance on self-aware irony or penchant for edgier comedy. It’s much too gentle and it treats its characters with too much affection – a nice change of pace.

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