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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sydney to the Max is a sitcom that centers on the dynamic between a middle-schooler and her overprotective father, who often finds his point of view changes when he's reminded of the follies of his own youth by his mother. The show involves comical flashbacks to the '90s to see how things played out when Sydney's dad, Max, was her age and Sydney's grandmother, Judy, was a single parent herself. Sydney rebels against her dad's rules in mostly small ways, but the show mines the behavior for laughs more than it uses them to emphasize any realistic fallout or consequence that follows. On the upside, the show presents a nurturing single-parent, multigenerational family unit that's always a place of security for Sydney.
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What's the story?
In SYDNEY TO THE MAX, outgoing 13-year-old Sydney (Ruth Righi) is on the fast track to growing up, despite the goodhearted efforts of her protective father, Max (Ian Reed Kesler). As Sydney attempts to spread her wings and make more decisions for herself, Max does everything he can to rein her in and keep her his little girl. But as he's doing so, his mother, Judy (Caroline Rhea), is reminded of his own antics at Sydney's age, and the parallels -- illustrated by comical flashback sequences starring a young Max (Jackson Dollinger) -- are both amusing and enlightening.
Is it any good?
This sitcom's shtick -- '90s flashbacks complete with dated fashion and technology -- is a unique enough one to help bolster an otherwise standard series about generational crossed wires within a family. The added presence of Rhea as Sydney's hipster grandmother shakes up the traditional parent-teen dynamic in entertaining ways as well, forcing Max to alternate between being an authority figure as Sydney's dad and a submissive one as Judy's son. This illuminates the similarities between Max's early teen years and his daughter's and makes him a much more sympathetic and relatable character to kids in the audience.
Sydney's mild rebelliousness is necessary to advance the storylines, and all things considered, the stands she takes (adopting a dog against her dad's wishes, dyeing her own hair when he refuses to let her get it done professionally, etc.) are fairly safe ones. But the show takes a similarly soft stance on the consequence aspect of her actions, suggesting that this kind of behavior is part and parcel of the growing-up process and more a laughing matter than a serious one. It's a small hiccup in an otherwise benign series with positive themes about family relationships.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about communication between parents and kids. How do Sydney and her dad make sure they understand each other? Is it important to see a situation from the other person's point of view to reach a mutually beneficial understanding? How do you keep the lines of communication open in your family? In what ways does technology help that?
Kids: Can you relate to Sydney's struggle to assert herself and gain independence while still abiding by her father's rules? What new privileges have you received as you have gotten older? How have your responsibilities changed, as well?
How do Sydney's father and grandmother help guide her in different ways? What character strengths do you see in each of them? How are they united in their care for Sydney even when they have different opinions about what's best for her? Do you find that is true in your family?
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