Saturday, July 29, 2023

Run the Burbs, on CW

If you can’t laugh at family, who can you laugh at? Of course, they still have to be funny. The Phams are very hit-or-miss when it comes to comedy, but boy do they try hard to bring the yuck-yucks. There is a lot of running around and complaining in their suburban Canadian neighborhood, but each problem is resolved in about twenty-two minutes by the diverse cast in creators Andrew Phung & Scott Townsend’s Run the Burbs, which premieres Monday on the CW.

Run the Burbs
is shot in Ontario, but it is based on Phung’s Calgary suburb. Wherever it is, it is definitely Canadian, which is what we are coming to expect from CW shows, especially during the writers and actors strikes. Phung plays Andrew Pham, a stay-at-home dad, who raises his abrasively woke teen daughter Khia and geeky pre-teen son Leo, while his wife Camille makes money doing her “entrepreneurial” thing. Of course, Khia has some sort of trendy alphabet sexuality, so they can avoid the trouble of writing a complex persona for her.

There are times when the writing appears poised to make sharp satirical commentary, but it always backs off at the last minute. For instance, in the pilot episode “Blockbuster,” the neighborhood block-party is in danger of cancellation, by the officious paper-work-obsessed community-association president, but it down-shifts into a cheesy
Fast & Furious parody (in which Camille takes on a street-racer for his party permit) rather than seriously skewering the buzzkill that is bureaucracy.

Likewise, “Heatwave” sees Khia accept a mural commission at their favorite bubble tea store, only to squander it with a highly politicized and massively inappropriate monstrosity. It is a great set-up to skewer the woke mentality, but the toothless follow-up mostly consists of some apathetic shrugs.

Kimberly-Ann Truong somewhat livens up “Carol the Conqueror” with her first appearance as Pham’s sister. Their sibling tensions ring true, but the jokes revolving around Camille’s widowed father, as he jumps into dating apps are very familiar—you could even say shop-worn.

If you can get through more than three episodes, you are more bull-headed than I am.
Run the Burbs is mostly family-friendly, which is nice, but it is almost too happy. It all feels very dated, like a throwback to 1990s family sitcoms, with a little woke babble thrown in to appease the online hordes of scolds. Not recommended, Run the Burbs premieres Monday (7/31) on the CW.