Saturday, July 22, 2023

Son of a Critch, on CW

In Canada, this show is sort of like Everyone Hates Chris or Young Rock. Since comedian Mark Critch is not particularly well-known in America, we can think of it as The Wonder Years with some Rush songs. Coming of age is always hard, especially with an embarrassing family, but young Mark Critch learns nearly everyone has an embarrassing family in Son of a Critch, which premieres Monday on the CW.

The Critch family lives on the outskirts of late-1980’s St. John’s, Newfoundland. His father Mike (played by grown-up Mark Critch, who also narrates, like Daniel Stern on
The Wonder Years) is a gung-ho reporter for the local radio station and his somewhat high-strung mother Mary boils all their food. Perhaps his moody teen brother Mike Jr. is his least embarrassing family member. However, sharing a bedroom with his crotchety grandfather Peter (“Pops”) is definitely way up there, even though he is probably closer to Pops than his parents or brother. Attending wakes to grade the food is one of their favorite things to do together.

Regardless, the best parts of
Critch happen at the Catholic junior high school young Mark is forced to attend. To say the Dean Martin-listening Critch is socially awkward is an understatement, but he manages to befriend Ritchie Perez, the son of successful Filipino doctors. Unfortunately, he is quickly bullied by “Fox,” one of three thuggish red-haired siblings all known by their surname. She also has a massive crush on Critch, which he reciprocates, even though he will not admit it.

Based on the first four episodes, young Critch’s relationships with Perez and Fox are the best things going for the series. His rapport with grouchy grandpa is also very likable, especially since the old dude is played by the legendary Malcolm McDowell (try to forget how many times we have seen him naked in films like
A Clockwork Orange and Cat People). Listening to him kvetch with Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, the young Mark Critch, is pretty amusing, particularly in the funeral-focused second episode, “Lordy, Lordy, Look Who’s Dead.”

The ”Pilot” episode truly feels like a pilot, since it is literally Critch’s first day of school. Still, the third act shows some of the chemistry developing between Ainsworth and Sophia Powers and Mark Ezekiel Rivera as Fox and Perez. That is where the charm and humor of the third and fourth episodes (“Cello, I Must Be Going” and “Cucumber Slumber”) come from. That said, the digs at Catholic school life and the portrayal of the nuns are mostly cliched and derivative material.

It is also worth noting “Cucumber Slumber” satirizes the real-life Sprung Greenhouse, an ill-fated government-sponsored venture to bring hydroponic agriculture to St. John’s. Unfortunately, it proved how ill-equipped politicians are at identifying economic opportunities. At least it is still good for a few jokes, twenty-four years later.

Get ready for more Canadian sitcoms, especially with both writers and actors on strike.
Son of a Critch is one of the better ones, in large part due to the charisma of its young stars and the eighties references. Recommended for the nostalgia, Son of a Critch premieres with back-to-back episodes this Monday (7/24) on the CW.