Watching a four year old boy jiggle his mother’s underwear’d-rear end was an odd way to open a TV show. Then again, it was the perfect kind of quirk for Bravo, a network devoted to mocking worship of all that is rich, fake, and wannabe-famous. This, of course, makes the “odd” in Odd Mom Out the antithesis of a real housewife: Jill, a brunette in a blonde world who lives in a walk-up and stays at home with her kids, opting out of the gym/spa/Me-Me-Me lifestyle of her absurdly loaded peers.
You’ll never hear it acknowledged openly in the premiere episode, but Jill’s gripes with the cold, heartless, endlessly superficial world of the Upper East Side elite are all rooted in her Jewish values. She is her children’s mother, nanny and best friend rolled into one. Foregoing sex with her husband, she runs to her son’s bed to comfort him during a series of nightmares. (Her WASP husband’s cold remark: “he needs to grow a pair.”) When her best friend Vanessa reminds her that she is indeed, rich, Jill’s reply carries the classic Jewish guilt trip: “When I was growing up there was some shame around being rich.” Best of all, the show’s tagline about being brunette (ahem, Jewish) in a blonde (ahem, white) world is challenged when her WASP in-laws attempt to convince her to get highlights during a spa day, sending her running for the hills.
Jill’s struggle to maintain her Jewish ethic in a foreign domain translates easily to the 21st century culture of judgmental parenting. Every decision she makes about her children is scrutinized by her mother-in-law, sister-in-law, fellow Pre-K moms and, worst of all, the headmaster of the elite private preschool where her children attend. This isn’t just an upper class dilemma. 21st century Mommy culture has, more often than not, replaced critical thinking with critical opinions. Here’s a hint: When you’re almost at blows over the values of breastfeeding, you know it’s time for a reality check.
Still, Weber’s tongue-in-cheek comedy may translate better via book than television. No doubt the show’s charmer, she carries the dead weight of blonde boredom on her shoulders. Unless she can somehow humanize the caricatures she’s created in her Upper East Side yuppie cadre, viewers may fall asleep fast at jokes that could easily be boiled down to the length of a YouTube sketch. But, to be fair, pilots are never a good judge of a show’s character. Weber is preciously smarter than most in the Bravo demographic. Giving her character an artsy skull fetish (quite the hip trend in NYC as of late) provides wonderfully intelligent subtext. Is Jill the goth nihilist in the bunch, or is she the heroine who conquers the nihilism in her superficial universe, mounting their heads on her wall with the pride of a huntress?
In the end, Weber’s message is what makes her appearance on Bravo shockingly refreshing. It is a wise one, encouraging moms to stay true to their values and not cave in to social pressures when it comes to parenting. And if the Queen Channel of Social Pressures can sneak a message like that onto the air, perhaps there is hope for mommys after all.