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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Imaginary Mary is a sitcom about a woman who begins dating a divorced dad with three kids. The setup of this sitcom -- that an adult woman sees and hears an imaginary friends -- may be concerning to some families as younger kids might not "get it." A romantic relationship is at the center of this show; expect flirting, dating, kissing, jokes about and references to sex and body parts. There are jokes about casual sex ("hit it and quit it") and pornography (a teen says he has a folder of "boobs" on his computer); couples kiss before falling into bed and wake up in their underwear. Other jokes target substances legal and illegal: a teen wonders if buying pot brownies from a boy in his class will make him seem cooler to his peers, a character tries to handle her problems by drinking heavily at a bar before making a fool of herself and waking up with a hangover. Strong language includes "damn," "hell," "ass" (spelled out as "a double s"), "kickass."
What's the story?
Back when she was a sad little girl with parents who weren't there for her, Alice (Jenna Elfman) had a friend no one else could see or hear, who gave her advice, helped her through hard times, and most of all, convinced Alice she shouldn't rely on romance to make her happy. So Alice grows up to a fiercely independent career woman, with a successful sports PR business. But when she falls in love with charming divorced dad Ben (Stephen Schneider) it all gets turned upside-down -- and IMAGINARY MARY is back to give Alice plenty of terrible advice. Now Ben and his three quirky kids, Andy (Nicholas Coombe), Dora (Matreya Scarrwener), and Bunny (Erica Tremblay) are in her life -- and so is Mary.
Is it any good?
Winning actors and decent gags give a bit of lift to this sweet-natured family comedy, but the "adult with an imaginary friend" storyline hasn't aged well. Movies like Harvey and Drop Dead Fred now seem like relics from a time when we didn't understand mental illness; now viewers may be weirded out instead of charmed by a woman who's seeing and hearing a fuzzy CGI creature (voiced by Rachel Dratch). Nonetheless, Imaginary Mary isn't without its charms. Elfman, given a character less daft to play than in her 1990s breakthrough Dharma & Greg, is smart and sympathetic, a woman who realizes Mary is voicing her emotional terror. She and Ben have real chemistry, too, and warm relationships with each of Ben's kids, particularly the straining-to-be-cool Adam.
But it's hard to see where the show will go, saddled as it is with an animated id. If Mary is Alice's needy and scared self, does that mean as Alice's need for her evaporates that Mary will, what, die? But if she doesn't, won't the idea of a character who sees and hears things that aren't there grow increasingly odd and unsettling? For a show clearly straining for ABC-family-comedy appeal, Mary's presence is a big problem.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Imaginary Mary compares to other family-centered shows. Does the content seem more or less realistic than others? Do the central relationships seem nontraditional to you? How are they different from other sitcom families?
How does the media portray relationships in general? Is it ever appropriate to use stereotypes as a way of portraying them? Why do you think topics such as divorce, sex, and dating are dealt with so frequently on TV shows and in movies?
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