ABC’s new sitcom Single Parents has some issues, but a strong cast and sharp comic timing get it off to an affable start.
Will Cooper (Taran Killam) might be the whitest man who ever lived, which is kind of a plot point in ABC’s new sitcom, Single Parents. He is indeed single and a parent; you can tell because his house is full of bean bags and he carries around a brightly coloured mermaid bag. But what is he beyond that? Therein lays the problem: Not very much. He’s trapped in the “vortex” of single-parenthood, new in town, with no friends, no romantic options, and not much of a life beyond the one he lives vicariously through his precocious young daughter.
All the kids in Single Parents are precocious, which would get annoying if the show was trying to be a serious examination of its subject matter, which thankfully it isn’t. The kids speak in jokes and behave in stereotypes, only occasionally betraying that they’re supposed to be about ten years younger than they’re acting.
No problem. It’s all part of the gag. They all share a class with Will’s daughter, and their predictably diverse parents hang around together, help each other out with babysitting, and generally disapprove of Will’s desperate flailing. By the end of the first episode they’ve ingratiated him into their clique of outsized caricatures, providing the setup for the rest of the season.
Leighton Meester is on-hand as the sneaky lead, even though the story is ostensibly about Will, and she’s joined by Brad Garrett as an old-school man’s man; Kimrie Lewis, whose flamboyant kid takes charges of Will’s makeover for a Tinder date; and Jake Choi, who hasn’t quite come to terms with the fact he’s in solely in charge of looking after a baby. They might accept Will a little too quickly, but the dynamic works, and Single Parents has enough sharp comic timing that you’ll likely forgive a little contrivance for the sake of making the jokes work. It’s a sitcom, after all.
Whether or not the show will try to adhere to the typical formula or subvert it is anyone’s guess, but it has enough smart insights to be funny, and that’s really all it needs. One bit about free babysitting will ring remarkably true for anyone with kids, and the premiere’s absurd finale has a grain of truth that offsets the ridiculousness of two grown men belting out Moana songs. That’s just how parents are. And why not?