Dear John: Why I’m Breaking Up with Growing Up Fisher

Growing Up Fisher (Photo: NBC)
Growing Up Fisher (Photo: NBC)

After six episodes, the makers of Growing Up Fisher seem to be more interested in a bland family comedy called the Jenna Elfman Show.

As I said in my last checkin with NBC’s new comedy Growing Up Fisher, the quality of the show will be determined by whether or not the creative direction follows the character Hal (J.K. Simmons) or Joyce (Jenna Elfman). After three more episodes, it has become clear that the show wants  Joyce to be the focus of the series. Or rather, Joyce will be pulling focus.

This choice became most clear in the fifth episode “Work With Me.” Joyce decides she should be working because…plot. She ends up getting a job at Hal’s law firm and promptly pisses everyone off because Joyce doesn’t know how to act in an office. Of course, the supporting cast doesn’t know how to act in an office either.1 I almost quit the series about 14 minutes into the episode because television in 2014 can and should do better.

The most recent episode was a retread of the “Just Say No” plotlines of the 1980s. Hal’s dog Elvis smells something funny in daughter Katie’s (Ava Deluca-Verley) bag, leading Hal to discover a jazz cigarette in a baggie. First, the baggie seems redundant. Second, it turns out Joyce acquired the joint because…plot. Despite being in their 40s, neither Hal nor Joyce have had any direct or indirect experience with marijuana. Maybe cocaine or ecstasy was more their thing back in the day? This episode seems like such a relic when two states have legalized recreational use and others allow for medicinal usage. In fact, that’s how they get out of a scene when two police officers are about to cite2 Hal for smoking outside. He gets out of the ticket because they realize he’s blind.

The B-plot of the episode features Henry (Eli Baker) freaking out about his 12th birthday. It turns out Hal lost his vision when he was 12 years old, which Henry has internalized since his 6th birthday. Now wait a damn minute. The pilot of the show led us to believe Hal lost his sight later in life. How was he able to fake his way through driving? Why and how was he hiding his blindness from coworkers and the rest of the world? This revelation betrays what makes the character of Hal Fisher interesting.

Speaking of interesting characters, we are six episodes in and still know next-to-nothing about Katie. From what little information has been provided, she seems well-adjusted and has friends who do things. Maybe the show could consider doing an episode where she is the subject and not an object for the other characters—namely Joyce—to respond to.

Sigh. I need to end this relationship, Growing Up Fisher. I know you have a lot of potential, but how long do I have to wait before you realize it? Feel free to call when you find yourself.

  1. Y’all should read Ask a Manager—she would whip this office into shape.  
  2. Not arrest, not throw in a gulag, but issue a ticket  

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv