I am generally pretty sympathetic to streaming services that want to get into original programming. While we're still early into the history of streaming television, it's already clear that niche services can still draw enough customers to provide a steady revenue stream.
That being said, I'm more skeptical of advertising-based streaming video services (AVOD), which rely solely on advertising to make money. The ad revenue is there, but it's a lot more difficult to make money when you're forced to sell advertising against programming you don't own. That's one of the reasons why Viacom purchased the AVOD service Pluto. Viacom owns thousands of hours of programming which wouldn't bring a lot of licensing money on the open market. But it can make quite a bit of money selling advertising inside shows it already owns and has paid for years ago.
Which brings us to the video on demand service Vudu, which is owned by Walmart. Vudu offers around 150,000 movie and television titles for purchase or rental. But two years ago Vudu launched Movies On Us, which currently offers 3,125 movies free to watch with ads, along with about 300 full seasons of TV shows.
Vudu hasn't revealed what sort of viewing numbers it gets from its Movies On Us service, but for the most part the content isn't exclusive and can easily be found on other AVOD services. So given that, it's not surprising that Vudu decided last year to team up with MGM to create original series based on franchises from its extensive film and TV catalog. The shows will be exclusively licensed to Vudu for North America, and available on the Movies On Us service.
"Mr. Mom" is the first program to come out of that deal and if you find yourself wondering why someone would remake a 1983 John Hughes movie about the then-novel idea of a stay at-home dad, the most likely answer is that it was a familiar piece of MGM intellectual property that no one else was interested in tackling.
The phrase "it was a different time" is overused by television critics, but in the case of "Mr. Mom," it's a pretty accurate description. The idea of a man staying at home to become a full-time dad was still novel enough in the early 1980s to easily elicit laughs. But a recent study shows about 7 percent of dads stay home to take care of their children full-time. And that doesn't include the number of men who split childcare duties with their significant other. So if you're going to do a reboot of "Mr. Mom" in 2019, you had better think waaaay beyond the original premise.
I have to give writers Mike Culbert, Mike Pellettieri and Leslie Rathe credit for doing a solid job of attempting to update the premise, but the staleness of the original story along with the strange 11-minute episode lengths result in a show that at least so far hasn't moved beyond "well, that was certainly a sincere effort."
The new "Mr. Mom" storyline has been tweaked quite a bit from the original. Instead of a dad who's lost his job, this version has Greg (Hayes MacArthur) working unhappily at a job he realizes is a dead-end. So when his wife Megan (Andrea Anders) lands her dream job after staying at home for five years, Greg convinces his wife that he can stay home and watch the kids.
MacArthur does a solid job with material that doesn't always give him a lot to work with. Most of his scenes involve unsettling behavior from his kids combined with a slightly goofy dad vibe. And while there are some funny moments, it often seems more like a sketch lengthened into a TV series than an actual viable concept.
The part of "Mr. Mom" that does work are the workplace scenes with Megan (Anders), who struggles to connect with younger co-workers and a workplace filled with unfamiliar ideas like hot desks and Slack. If the show was centered around her work experiences, I suspect I would be all in. Anders is always a delight and she wrings her laugh she can out of the script.
And ultimately, that's the biggest problem with "Mr. Mom." Yes, it's intellectual property many people are familiar with without having seen the show ahead of time. But while the IP is well-known, the TV series "Mr. Mom" never quite successfully makes the case it needs to exist. The best part of the show is the part that isn't in the title, which doesn't bode well for the show's future.
Two new episodes of "Mr. Mom" premiere each Thursday on Vudu.