Roush Review: A Chaotic Christmas With 'The Moodys'

Matt Roush
Review Jonathan Wenk/FOX

If any family has the right to be moody at Christmastime, it's The Moodys, a barely functional suburban clan who gripe, nag, and dissemble their way through a sad-sack holiday of escalating misfortune. This decidedly offbeat short-run comedy of six episodes, airing over three nights, will be seen by some as a refreshingly acerbic antidote to the heaping helpings of schmaltz produced by Hallmark and other assembly lines of year-round holiday cheer.

Though it begins on a frantic high note, with frustrated mom Ann (the reliably wry Elizabeth Perkins) blowing the head off a mantelpiece Santa with a BB gun, then blasting ornaments off the tree while declaring "Christmas is canceled," the series is never quite as madcap as it fancies itself to be.

The Moodys piles on romantic complications among the grown yet immature offspring with the return of youngest sib Dan (Francois Arnaud), who stops brooding over a busted relationship when he instantly falls for an unctuous cousin's girlfriend (Maria Gabriela de Faria). His sister Bridget (Chelsea Frei) has just wrecked her own marriage by cheating, so grudgingly moves back into the family home for the holiday. Already living there: oldest child Sean Sr. (Jay Baruchel), a slacker with wacky get-rich schemes no one much appreciates.

Adding to the ambient angst and chaos: secret health issues, a few ill-advised capers, and an unfinished bathroom, all elements of a harried, rather than merry, Christmas. Debbie Downer would love it. A Grinch might respond: Is that all there isn't?

All the New Shows Premiering in December 2019 (PHOTOS)

All the New Shows Premiering in December 2019 (PHOTOS)

There are lots of options, from sci-fi and fantasy offerings on Netflix to Showtime originals.

The nicest surprise is Denis Leary's low-key and slow-burn performance as family man Sean Sr., for once not the most broken person in any given room. He welcomes son Dan back into the fold with very dad-like commentary — "What kind of jacket is that?" "What's with the beard?" "You're going to need better shoes than that" — but he's really a softie with hard edges. A recovering alcoholic who takes the family's traditions seriously ("Respect the hat! ... I'm the captain of caroling!"), he has a habit of inviting his AA pals and shelter strays over. 

In one episode, as Christmas nears, he frets about bungling a Midnight Mass reading, signaling that he's more than Moody. He's relatable.

(Jonathan Wenk/FOX)

The Moodys, Miniseries Premiere, Wednesday, December 4, 9/8c, Fox (Continues Monday–Tuesday, December 9–10)