Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Millers: The First Season DVD Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
"The Millers" stars Will Arnett as Nathan Miller, a recently divorced local roving news reporter looking forward to living the single life until his parents' marital problems unexpectedly derail his plans. After Nathan finally breaks the news of his divorce to his parents, Carol (Margo Martindale) and Tom (Beau Bridges), his father is inspired to follow suit and stuns the family when he leaves his wife of 43 years. Already in shock, Nathan is even more aghast when his meddlesome mom decides to move in with him. Meanwhile, his absent-minded dad imposes upon Nathan's sister Debbie (Jayma Mays), her husband Adam (Nelson Franklin) and their daughter Mikayla (Lulu Wilson). Nathan's best friend and news cameraman Ray (Smoove) was excited to be Nathan's wingman in the dating scene, but Carol manages to even cramp his style. Now, as Nathan and his sister settle in with their truly impossible parents, they both wonder just how long the aggravating adjustment period is going to last.
Show (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Will Arnett stars as small town television news reporter Nathan Miller.  He lives close to his sister Debbie (Jayma Mays), who runs a vegan restaurant/yoga studio with her husband Adam. The studio, called the Whispering Frog Yoga CafĂ©, asks patrons to “come for the yoga, Namaste for lunch.”  Adam and Debbie have a young daughter Makayla.  The show begins as Nathan and Debbie’s parents are returning from Myrtle Beach.  Nathan, who prides himself on being his mother’s favorite, has been hiding the fact that he divorced his wife of three years. Mom, Carol (Margo Martindale) and Dad, Tom (Beau Bridges) have news of their own – planning to divorce themselves.

Debbie and Adam take “custody” of Tom while Carol moves in with Nathan.  Each parent drives their new roommate(s) crazy in numerous ways and Nathan and Debbie often fight like they are children again. Nathan’s friend and co-worker Ray tags along throughout the family’s comedic drama.  

The Millers Season One contains the following episodes:

1. “Pilot” –Tom and Carol announce they are divorcing after 43 years of marriage. Both Debbie and Nathan now have a parent living with them.

2. “Plot Twists” – Carol calls a family meeting to discuss the future of cemetery plots in light of the two divorces.

3. “The Phone Upgrade” – To help Tom with his forgetfulness, Nathan gives him a smart phone and an electronic babysitter to remind him of his needs.

4. “The Mother Is In” – Carol learns Nathan is in therapy and attempts to see the same psychologist in order to find out what Nathan has been revealing.

5. “Giving the Bird” – Nathan and Debbie share the story of the rumored witch on their street at Halloween and they learn the true fate of their childhood pet parrot.

6. “Stuff” - Carol and Tom need to go through their still-unpacked boxes after discovering many family mementos in them, hoping that their parents will feel nostalgic and get back together.

7. “The Talk” – Nathan brings home a girl and Carol realizes Tom skipped the birds and the bees talk – in typical Carol fashion it’s never too late!

8. “Internet Dating” - Nathan and Ray make an online dating profile for Carol and start talking to a potential match as if they are Carol, getting way too involved in the possible outcome.

9. “You’re In Trouble” – Childhood secrets are revealed as Nathan learns why Debbie is Tom’s favorite child.

10. “Carol’s Parents are Coming to Town” – Carol’s parents are coming to visit for Christmas, but Carol hasn’t them about her divorce or Nathan’s. 

11. “Dear Diary” – Debbie plants fake diary entries after becoming concerned that her mother and Nathan have been reading her private thoughts.

12. “Miller’s Mind” – Nathan recounts one of his mother’s outbursts and his boss wants to rant on air.  As Miller’s Mind becomes a regular segment, Nathan frustrates his mother in order to have material for the show.

13. “Driving Miss Crazy” – Carol asks Adam to drive her around when Nathan says he’s tired of being her chauffer.  Soon Nathan becomes jealous of Adam as he bonds with Carol.

14. “Carol’s Surprise” – Carol prides herself on being too smart to surprise.  Nathan gets everyone involved in a fake plan so they don’t reveal the real surprise.

15. “You Betcha” - Nathan wants to spend more time with his father but the two men have little in common. Carol accidentally gives Mikayla lasagna with meat in it (it’s a vegan family), and tries to hide the fact that Mikayla loves and craves meat.

16. “Bahama Mama” – Ray’s injury threatens to sideline a tropical vacation.  Debbie is angry that Adam has never written her a love song after seeing him sing to a teenage love.

17. “Plus One” – Nathan has to choose his date for a charity dinner where President Obama will be in attendance.

18. “Walk-n-Wave” – Ray teaches Nathan to walk-n-wave instead of lingering to talk to co-workers.  Adam and Tom take an IQ test to determine who is smarter – the former engineer or the man who was homeschooled in a unique environment.

19. “Cancellation Fee” – When Carol is told she must pay a fee for missing an appointment she insists the office pay her back when a later appointment is cancelled on her. The dentist is added to Carol’s boycott list, and Nathan now has a problem because he has made a date with her.

20. “Tomlandia” - Tom tells his comic-style story, featuring him as a superhero and the station owner wants to turn it into a television show.  Neither Nathan nor Tom are happy with the pilot.

21. “0072” – Tom is ready to date and Nathan takes it upon himself to investigate the young woman.  Nathan learns Tom has wooed the young lady with a fictional story.

22. “Sex Ed Dolan” – Trying to get out of hanging out with his boss Ed, Nathan sets up a bromance with Ed and his father.  Somehow, that leads to Ed sleeping with Carol.  When Carol wants to turn off Ed, the family offers suggestions of how Carol can be herself to get rid of him.

23. “Mother’s Day” - Carol makes a big deal about how Nathan never forgets Mother’s Day and the one time Debbie forgot.  It is revealed that Nathan isn’t as thoughtful as he seems, he simply has a standing order at a florist, who never forgets.  Upset over her ungrateful children, Carol decides to spend Mother’s Day in the company of many mimosas.

This debut season features a funny, complicated family, and was nominated for a People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Comedy.  Guest stars in season one include Roseanne Barr, Andy Richter, Eliza Coupe, June Squibb and Jerry Van Dyke.

"The Millers" has succeeded in amusing me. It’s not roll on the floor hysterical humor, but it’s entertaining.  The show is as much about Nathan Miller (Will Arnett) as it is about his mother Carol (Margo Martindale).  If you remember Martindale from her work on Justified, this is a huge departure.  Martindale plays a very authentic overbearing mother, with a likeability I would not have expected.  She’s best described as a crazy mom with a good heart.  It is believable that she would have been married to the childlike Tom, and just as believable that she would divorce him.  Will Arnett and Jayma Mays have got the sibling rivalry down.

My only complaint in casting is Ray, played by J.B. Smoove.  Smoove irritated me (mostly related to his voice) throughout and appears to have been inserted for comic relief.  The story has enough going on with just the Miller family, maybe Ray will get transferred to a new station and the show will be much better for it. My irritation is not to the level that will keep me from watching future seasons, even if J.B. Smoove stays in the cast.
Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The three disc DVD set is presented in 16x9 widescreen format.  For a television show on DVD, the visual presentation is adequate.  The show takes place primarily indoors, in well-lit sets but I found no major complaints in any setting.  With a half hour TV comedy, the bar is not set very high for me.  It looks comparable to the television airing of the show and it is of course, a shame it’s not available on Blu-ray.
Audio (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
"The Millers" English 5.1 audio mix is more than adequate for a dialogue driven show like this.  Sound effects are rare and it is filmed in front of a live audience with the typical canned laughter.  The DVDs also contain English Stereo audio and English SDH, Latin American Spanish and Brazilian and Portuguese subtitles.
Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Discs one and three contain special features.  In order to find the commentary on disc one you must select the episode.  There is not a special features section on that disc.
  • Disc One Extra:
    • Audio Commentary by Greg Garcia and Trace Garcia – The 44 year old creator and his 7 year old son, who has acted in the show, provide audio commentary on the pilot episode.
  • Disc Three Extras:
    • Launch Promos – Seven lengthy promos for the show including cast/crew interviews.
  • Season in Review: Year One – A fourteen minute wrap up/recap of season one including discussions about the writing, actors, and story with behind the scenes footage.
  • J.B. Smoove Walks the Streets – Smoove leads a set tour and stops to talk to cast/crew along the way.
  • The Actor’s Actor: William Arnett – Tongue in cheek interviews with and about Will Arnett.
  • Gag Reel – 7 minutes of prop problems, line flubs and on set jokes.
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Millers: The First Season is a show I watched live, and was glad to see renewed for a second season. Although it’s kind of a family show, airing on CBS Thursdays at 8:30, I wouldn’t recommend it for children. They do deal with adult themes, and the show would be best for a teenage or adult audience. The teens might not enjoy it though – but I did. I don’t know how many seasons I’d be willing to watch Nathan Miller struggle with having a mother for an unwanted roommate but I do look forward to seeing where season two takes the Miller family. I enjoyed the show in its first run and again on DVD. I was glad to hear that Sean Hayes, whose show that I liked, "Sean Saves the World" was axed in its first season, will be joining "The Millers" to add even more humor the next season.

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