By Joyce Slaton,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Sweet family comedy is marred by old-fashioned premise.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Characters frequently express ambivalence about children, saying things like someone without kids "hasn't had the coolness drained out." Yet family is at the heart of this show, with mocking yet strong and supportive (if not entirely realistic) parent-child relationships.
Positive Role Models
Alice seemingly has auditory and visual hallucinations, but doesn't worry about her health or tell anyone what she's seeing and hearing. Her imaginary friend helps her see that having a partner and helping raise children is important and meaningful, but parents may wish to clarify that seeing things that aren't there is actually a worrisome symptom, not amusing and cute. Ben is a thoughtful father who cares about this children, who are quirky and tease each other, but are also loving and kind.
Violence & Scariness
Jokes about violence: one character advises another to "kick him in the nuts and run" rather than having an emotional conversation.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Flirting, dating, kissing, a couple kisses on a bed and their "first time" is referred to, references to casual sex ("hit it and quit it") and to bodily functions and body parts: "a halfie," "boobs," "nuts." A boy tells an adult woman he doesn't know that he has a folder of "boobs" on his computer. When Alice and Ben get intimate after a fight, Mary hangs around to watch: "showtime!"
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Strong language and cursing includes "damn," "hell," "ass" (spelled out as "a double s"), "kickass," one character calls another "dummy," "frigging," "boobs," characters say "shut up!" jokingly, Alice calls Dora a "mean nerd."
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Products & Purchases
Mention of social media brands: Facebook, Twitter.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
References to drugs: a teen wonders if buying pot brownies from a boy in his class will make him seem cooler to his peers. A distraught woman is told that having "10 drinks" is an answer to her problems; she goes on to make a fool of herself at a bar and wakes up with a hangover.
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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."
Where to Watch
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Based on 4 parent reviews
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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?
How do the characters in Imaginary Mary demonstrate communication and perseverance? Why are these important character strengths?
- Premiere date: March 27, 2017
- Cast: Jenna Elfman, Rachel Dratch, Nicholas Coombe, Stephen Schneider
- Network: ABC
- Genre: Comedy
- Character Strengths: Communication, Perseverance
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Last updated: October 13, 2022
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