Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 07:28 am est

‘Surviving Jack’ tells charming ‘90s coming-of-age story

Posted on March 25, 2014 | by Bob Teoh

courtesy of Fox Television

While it certainly cannot replace “That ’70s Show” as the best period sitcom of all time, FOX’s upcoming comedy series, “Surviving Jack,” is fun and charming in its own right. Filled with cassette tapes and hypercolor clothing, the series finds a good balance between ’90s nostalgia and likeable characters. It premieres on FOX on March 27.

Based on the autobiography of Justin Halpern, the creator of “$h*! My Dad Says” creator, the show follows Jack Dunlevy, an ex-military doctor who becomes a full-time parent when his wife decides to attend law school. Played by “Law & Order: SVU” alum Christopher Meloni, Jack immediately uses his no-nonsense approach to keep his teenagers, Frankie and Rachel, in line.

Unlike the short-lived “$h*! My Dad Says,” “Surviving Jack” focuses on establishing relatable characters rather than landing cheap laughs. Each episode is narrated by Jack’s son Frankie, who struggles with the problems all adolescents face.

From finding the courage to kiss a pretty girl to keeping in touch with his closest friends, Frankie’s awkward endeavors are a throwback to the classic coming-of-age story that has somewhat died out.

Frankie’s ungainliness is counterbalanced by Jack’s tough-nosed approach to parental matters. Jack is the type of man who speaks his mind and never shies away from crossing a line to get the point across. With a father who uses shotguns and hoses to mentally prepare his children for varsity tryouts, life is bound to be interesting.

The dynamic between Frankie and Jack is hilarious and surprisingly sweet. Both are struggling to fill their newfound roles. As they spend more time together, Frankie is learning how to become a man and Jack is learning how to become a full-time father. The reality is that parents make mistakes, and there is nothing wrong with that.

While Jack’s methods might be over the top, his heart is in the right place, and it is clear he truly cares about his children. Though episodes tend to end in a sappy, lesson-of-the week manner, the show never loses its balance between family drama and light-hearted fun. In a way, the coming-of-age aspect of the show applies to both Jack and his children.

The lovable cast is instrumental in the show’s success. Straight out of his most well known role on “SVU,” Christopher Meloni’s deadpan delivery and cynical attitude makes him perfect for the role of Jack. He has a charisma and gravitas that make Jack likeable even while his parenting tactics are questionable.

Rachael Harris, who plays Jack’s wife, is wonderful as always, but receives little screen time in the first two episodes. Newcomer Connor Buckley plays Frankie, and he delivers an awkward charm reminiscent of ’90s teen dramas.

Coming of age stories are rarely delivered well on television these days, but “Surviving Jack” may be on the way to changing this situation.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 25 print edition. Bob Teoh is entertainment editor. Email him at bteoh@nyunews.com.

Comments

CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

AS
Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.

 

DY
Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

CLOSE [x]
  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    NEWS FEATURES MULTIMEDIA SPORTS ARTS OPINION
    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.

    Next