4 out of 5
Created by: Kurt Smeaton
covers season 1
I’m kidless. Quite purposefully. I have no desire to change that, and I’ve got a good few decades on that mindset, without any doubts, to feel pretty settled in it. While my reasons vary between more personal beliefs and those that are easy for most (parents and non-parents alike) to guess, one thing I have gained with age is an appreciation / acceptance for why having children is appealing to many, as well as how I do think it’s acceptable – and perhaps even required, in a way – for it to be something you “grow” to enjoy, for all of the experiences’ inevitable ups and downs. I don’t think I was ever anti-kid, necessarily, but I definitely had less understanding of the desire in my younger years, so it’s nice to be able to engage with parents now and perhaps absorb some of their life experience second-hand.
Still, a title like ‘Children Ruin Everything’ gives me an evil lil’ smile, and that the show actually stays pretty true to that mantra, while simultaneously embracing all the paradoxical greatness that comes with that ruination, and doesn’t gladhand moralize at us about it, is… rather astounding. I wasn’t expecting the show to go as hard and as consistently on its “kids are bastards” mentality, and that that’s combined with a balanced sense of heart makes it not feel like a one-sided take on parenthood; rather, it seems to capture a more realistic view on raising tiny humans, as it’s an invariably problematic endeavor that, unlike on most sitcoms, can’t be summarized with a “you little rascal!” type one-liner and a knowing glance at the camera.
Of course, this is a sitcom, so things are blown out of proportion, and it’s still all relatively safe. Our couple (played by Meaghan Rath and Aaron Abrams) are never in danger of full-on blowout arguments, just minor, comedic disagreements; and the show touches on, but isn’t going to go too deep on day-to-day troubles, like money, and time management. Most negative reviews I’ve seen have been parents expressing frustration at the duo’s on-screen rearing tactics, and that no kids act the like ones in the show, but to me, these extremes are what help the comedy along, and prevent the need for that moralizing – it veers towards the absurd, making it easier for some of us (me, at least) to detach and find the comedy in it all. It helps that Ruth and Abrams are exceedingly comedically gifted, and ping off of one another really well, and also that the kids – played by Logan Nicholson and Mikayla SwamiNathan – are danged funny as well. Episodes are fairly standalone hijinx, giving us some voiceover at the start to introduce that week’s “why kids suck” topic, and then 20ish minutes follow of often hilarious events to prove that thesis.
While both husband and wife are given equal screentime and agency, Abrams’ character gets some additional room for development thanks to some workplace sequences, and an office buddy (Ennis Esmer) with whom he can counterpoint whatever’s going at home. It would’ve been nice if the writers had found a way to give Rath a similar outlet. There’s also something of a narrative arc throughout the season, which has a plus and minus: I like that this made the show feel less like an isolated sitcom, and more like a series where we’re getting to know the characters, but the narrative ultimately requires allowing in some lovey-dovey, uncynical stuff towards the end of the season.
But even with this, the show hits its humor beats so consistently throughout, and is delivered with such a refreshingly frank tone by a universally fun cast, that I can deal with a bit of lovey-dovey.