Monster In-Laws

On A&E’s new show Monster In-Laws, real-life married couples trot out their tense and troublesome relationships with their in-laws for the cameras, eventually allowing a relationship expert to tackle the glaring issues that are bubbling over. While it’s an engaging enough premise, the premiere falls surprisingly flat, thanks to predictability and time constraints. By the time a crew member has to step in to keep a man away from his son-in-law during a particularly raucous shouting match, it’s somehow still too snoozy to make the new show feel like something you haven’t already seen.

In the premiere, the New York-based Ciccone family splays open their situation, which involves father-in-law Richie battling with his son-in-law Anthony, primarily about the restaurant they co-own. The grandparents are also deeply attached to their only granddaughter, little Nina Maria (also, the namesake of the restaurant), and spend as many as six nights a week at their daughter Kim’s home. They’ve even pushed their way in so much that Anthony feels he’s been less able to bond with his daughter because of Richie’s constant doting on the young one.

Former trial lawyer and relationship expert Mel Robbins is brought in to give the family a hearty dose of tough love and, hopefully, mend their issues in record time. But Richie is less than impressed by the blonde-haired Robbins and promptly loses his cool when she explains her patented put-duct-tape-over-your-parents’-mouths-as-therapy technique to Kim. The fight uncorks a heap of tension between both sides, so that it dissolves into a chorus of shouts and unruly cameras angles as they chase the action around the house.

The rush to the confrontation is so lightning-quick in this half-hour show that it’s hard to feel very sure of why these people are yelling at each other in the first place. There’s a quick conversation at the restaurant where we sort of learned that Richie had been keeping the restaurant afloat financially while Anthony had no clue, and thus, it feels like his two cents on how the establishment runs should be respected. But it’s a quick zipping from introductions to a confrontation that requires far more back-story and emotional investment to properly care about the entire hullabaloo.

In the light of day, both couples sit down and half-apologize for flipping their lids on camera, promising to respect the other side and do better. In fact, Kim even writes up a list of rules for her parents that dictate how much time they can spend around her family and the rules they need to follow when in her home. Everyone is hugging and happy by the end, no doubt because they’ve all screamed their heads off enough to release some tension for the time being.

While the idea of confronting the messy and sticky world of in-law relationships is an interesting one, the show ultimately doesn’t have enough time to get the viewers on board for the knockdown-dragouts they’d like to showcase. Bringing in an expert who advocates slapping duct tape on the mouths of two elderly people, no matter how overbearing they are, is unsettling and awkward to watch. Plus, the real trick to getting them to hush up seems to just be to let them work themselves into a lather enough to get dragged out of the room by crewmembers. Bingo!

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