Bravo’s Odd Mom Out is bland enough to succeed. It’s not great or original or for a wide audience, but it’s perfectly fine. It is definitely suited to a very specific audience, and that’s an audience that I decidedly do not fit into. This is fine — there are plenty of shows that aren’t for me and that I can still appreciate on some level — but there’s something irksome in the way the series tries to showcase the nonsensical and easy-to-hate rich “blonde bitches” of the Upper East Side through the eyes of, well, a rich brunette weirdo of the Upper East Side. Odd Mom Out is trying to have its cake and eat it, too.
Creator Jill Kargman stars as a version of herself, the titular odd mom who, according to her kid’s assignment, “likes tattoos, underwear dance parties, and bad words.” How weird and original! This character sometimes works within the context of the show, where Jill is thrown into a world of even richer mothers, who are blonde and bland and whose rallying cry is “no bread!” screamed at waiters who dare to approach their table. It’s a world that Jill doesn’t necessarily want to fit in with, but also a world she finds inescapable, especially because her sister-in-law — seven-months-pregnant and rail-thin Brooke (Abby Elliott) — wholly embraces this materialistic and ridiculous milieu. In a realistic touch, Jill sometimes finds herself caught up in the spectacle, such as when she’s convinced to go to a spa and can’t stop staring in wonderment at her younger-looking appearance in the mirror or when she debates adding her husband’s family’s well-known “von” to her children’s name in order to make them look better on paper — even if that name may have a questionable history in Germany.
Odd Mom Out does have funny moments from time to time. The writing can be sharp, and Kargman definitely knows the group she’s skewering; after all, she already did so in her first solo novel Momzillas, which took on motherhood on the Upper East Side. Kargman is not only retreading well-explored territory but also retreading her own work. But that’s why the show works, when it does: the hyper-specifics of these characters ring true. It’s when it veers too much into broad caricatures that the show falls a little flat.
There are also plenty of stories that we’ve seen before. I once said that I never wanted to see another “parent tries to get child into a super-elite preschool” storyline every again. But this is the biggest running plot in the first three episodes screened for critics, with Jill fretting about which name to use and where to apply, then spiraling into total panic when it’s time to hear back about interviews. Odd Mom Out relies too much on the overdone — Jill is out of shape and struggles in a spin class! And that’s a shame, because it gets the closest to good when it focuses on more original ideas (Jill and her husband’s family try to get into a very inclusive cemetery in one fun sequence). Jill Kargman herself is the biggest saving grace of Odd Mom Out, giving an endlessly charming performance that makes her stick out from the cast in all the best ways. She’s a delight to watch, so much so that it’s easy to overlook the mundanity of the some episodes
At its best moments, Odd Mom Out has an endearing quality that’s reminiscent of Bravo’s first scripted series, the underrated Girlfriends Guide to Divorce. Both shows are noteworthy for exploring the lives of middle-aged women. Jill is a mother of three who laments over her changing post-babies body (she compares her vagina to the Holland tunnel and mentions her “thass” — that is, her thighs plus ass). She balances between adulthood and regularly falling into the high school trap of cliques — where she is the uncool weirdo — while her husband Andy (Andy Buckley) has a solid job but is seemingly flirting with the idea of moving to his brother’s company, where he can hang out on a boat and drink beer. And as for the requisite single best friend, there’s Vanessa (KK Glick), who represents another side of life in this sphere: trying to find a relationship when you’re a bit older, and when you have a busy career as a doctor.
As far as summer series go, you could (and probably will) watch much worse than Odd Mom Out. It won’t go down as one of the funniest or most groundbreaking series of the year; it’s just a simplistic, acceptable comedy for a narrow audience. The biggest problem with Odd Mom Out is that its targets are too easy and have already been attacked too many times. But if nothing else, it makes the case as to why these Upper East Side mothers are so perennially ripe for satire.