Jaime Pressly has an Emmy under her belt and Broadway star Katie Finneran has two Tony Awards.
Yet, these two accomplished actresses have somehow gotten stuck with what might be the worst new show of the fall season.
"I Hate My Teenage Daughter," a Fox sitcom about two best friends who were losers in high school and are now tormented by their popular, mean-girl teen daughters, is so atrocious that it actually makes me feel sad.
Pressly, who won a much-deserved Emmy in 2007 for her role as Joy on "My Name is Earl," makes the most of what she's given here -- which isn't much. But Finneran has the worst of the bargain, given a histrionic character so emotionally insecure that she has to cram food into her face at the slightest sign of stress.
Finneran plays the overly dramatic Nikki Miller, who has apparently never met a single gesture she couldn't absurdly exaggerate. We know Finneran is capable of solid, understated TV acting, because she was great as the serious lawyer sister in "Wonderfalls" (rent it!). So she is either getting horrible direction here or she's doing the worst overacting of her career.
But even if Finneran toned it down by 95 percent, she'll likely still have scripts that demean her by having her eat a whole pie with her bare hands like a bear, and then spend the rest of the scene with blueberry filling smeared all over her face. When she's not eating (or drinking), she's following her awful daughter around like a whimpering puppy, begging for any scrap of approval or affection. It's disgusting to watch.
I was hopeful going into the pilot that Pressly would finally be getting another great role on another great show. I'd have settled for a good role on a mediocre show. But this is just bad. And though I feel terrible for Pressly and wish she had a better gig, Finneran's character is the one that made me outright depressed.
Pressly does get some funny lines here and there. There's a running gag about her character Annie being raised by "religious nuts" and how she was never allowed to wear store-bought clothes as a teenager or watch TV. When her brother-in-law (the only sane person on the entire show) tells her that she spoils her daughter to make up for the fact that she herself had "lived in military lockdown and dressed like a character from 'Little House on the Prairie,'" Pressly deadpans, "Yeah, I don't know what that is."
That was kind of funny! Pressly has great timing! But that's about all that's funny here.
The daughters are even more horrible than the title of the show would have you assume. They are just worthless little people. At least the brother-in-law/uncle calls the parents out on that a couple of times, reminding them that it's all their fault for spoiling the girls and giving them no boundaries.
It could have been an interesting premise -- parents realizing they raised horrible people and figuring out what to do about that. But the script is unbearably silly.
My usual disclosure here is that I only got to see the pilot. So, there's always the chance later episodes could get better ... but it's doubtful.
"I Hate My Teenage Daughter" airs at 9:30 p.m. tonight right after "The X-Factor."