A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Abby's is a comedy about a group of friends who meet to drink in an unlicensed bar in the backyard of the titular Abby (Natalie Morales). Nonstop drinking and jokes about same are likely the aspect that will most concern parents. Characters drink, drink to get drunk, actually get drunk, and play it all off as humorous. There are even gags about alcoholism that don't take it seriously. Sexual content is light, but many characters are single; expect romantic complications, same- and opposite-sex kissing, and jokes and references to sex. A main character is openly bisexual; the cast is also diverse in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, race, and body size. Violence is comedic but can be a bit over-the-top: A man takes a dart to the knee and, when someone pulls it out, accidentally sets himself on fire (a quick-thinking bystander quickly uses a fire extinguisher). Language is mild and infrequent: "hell," "damn," and "screwed." Abby's bar is considered a sort of "community center" by those who hang out there; messages about friendship and unity are evident, if a bit muddied because the favorite activity of said community is drinking.
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What's the story?
There are plenty of bars in San Diego, but ABBY'S is different. It's an illegal establishment in Abby's (Natalie Morales) backyard, for one thing, and its $3 beers come with some very strict rules: No phones are allowed, not even to look up facts for a bar bet. Speaking of said bar bets: If you lose one, you have to drink a sugary "non-beer" drink. And newcomers are greeted with the greatest of suspicion, and must sit in the outer chairs at the bar for months before they're allowed a seat at the bar and their own special glass. It takes time to worm your way into Abby's in-crowd. But as one regular says, once you do, you're more than a patron -- you're family.
Is it any good?
With its cast of kooks sitting around a bar, this throwback sitcom will remind you of '80s classic Cheers in ways both good and bad. The gags are good, the talent is lovable, and creators have front-loaded the show with enough complication to keep the plot ticking along for a while. But deep into television's second golden age, when the hottest comedies are relentlessly surreal (The Good Place, Atlanta), animated oddities (Big Mouth, Bojack Horseman), or cable/digital series that take full advantage of their media's freedom (Barry, Sex Education), launching an old-school multi-camera sitcom like Abby's is quite a gamble.
It pays off, in a mild way. There are clearly ace joke writers on the staff, and the material is delivered with crack timing. Nelson Franklin, who viewers may recognize as Robby from New Girl, or from his brief tenure as tech guy Nick on The Office, is particularly good. Disturbed to find an unlicensed bar operating in the backyard of the building he just inherited, he's offered a tour. "This is a small rectangle," he harrumphs. "And I'm very tall." The characterization of Abby is another strong point: a guarded, grumpy, bisexual, emotionally withholding ex-servicewoman? What an interesting blend to center a show around. But the line-joke, line-joke rhythm is fake and old-fashioned, and mars the humor. Yes, it's classic sitcom. No, it's not as funny as it was when audiences expected this from comedies. And that's what makes this show a mild pleasure rather than wildly entertaining.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why workplace comedies are a staple of television comedies. What is it that's funny about a group of people who are together for hours a day but wouldn't otherwise be friends? What comedic or dramatic possibilities come along with the setting?
How are viewers supposed to feel about the characters on Abby's? Are some supposed to be relatable and some absurd? Which characters are which, and how can you tell?
What kind of limitations, if any, should be placed on showing drinking on television? With jokes about drinking and alcoholism, does Abby's take a too-frivolous approach to alcohol consumption? Do characters on the show model responsible drinking? Why or why not?
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