‘The Mick’ Review: Kaitlin Olson’s Fox Comedy Needs To Embrace Its Offensive Nature

Kaitlin Olson proves a worthy star, but the Fox comedy can't keep pace with this nasty woman.
The Mick Kaitlin Olson Jack Stanton
"The Mick"

A “Mick” is defined as an Irishman. At least, that’s what the dictionary states, but looking beyond the definition, one finds a few key words: It’s an “informal” and “offensive” term, making the meaning found on UrbanDictionary.com — the dictionary for the streets —  all the more appropriate.

Mick – derogatory word for Irish people. The origin of the word is disputed. Some believe “mick” comes from the common “Mc” in many Irish names: McSorley, McNeil, McFlannagan, etc. Others believe it’s related to the sound of a drunken hiccup. e.g. “I was the captain *mick* of a ship *mick* for three years!”

Also, “Mick” is the word that “spick” [a derogatory term for Spanish people] came from.

With all this in mind, merely titling a show “The Mick” invites the assumption of utter outrageousness; content aimed to offend sensitive viewers brave enough to tackle it and delight those who favor abysmal behavior. Putting “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” star Kaitlin Olson front and center doubles down on the assumption for anyone familiar with her work. But the fact that the new half-hour comedy is a Fox comedy — a broadcast comedy — seems to immediately contradict the dark intentions inherent in its title.

And it does, for the most part, in the limitedly funny pilot. While the talented and charismatic Olson performs to the best side of her worst self, the content of “The Mick” feels too muted for its own good.

The Mick Kaitlin Olson

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Olson plays Mackenize “Mickey” Murphy — and naming her as such serves an immediate step to soften the title’s implication, or simply a step in the wrong direction — a woman we’re first introduced to in the grocery store as she prowls the aisles eating whatever she pleases, dropping powder down her pants for sanitation’s sake, stealing razors to shave her armpits in front of customers, and closing things out by dropping off a six-pack of beer (minus one) for the homeless man outside. She didn’t pay for any of it, but the final gesture is a good-hearted one. Could she simply carry off a crass exterior that hides a secret soft side?

So much isn’t immediately proven when she inherits her sister’s children — sis and her hubby are on the run from the cops! — though we can assume it’s coming. I mean, look at these kids: Chip (Thomas Barbusca) is so blatantly controlled by his wealth he talks of suing a school bully for battery and the school itself for negligence. Ben (Jack Stanton) is the youngest, and thus, most innocent. He asks lots of “why” questions to illicit blunt responses from Mickey, which pay off for the most part, even if they feel censored.

It’s the oldest child and only daughter that gives the series its best hope. Sabrina (Sofia Black-D’Elia) isn’t merely a spoiled brat who wants to get her way all the time, and thus throws a fit whenever Mickey doesn’t play fair. She’s shrewdly insightful and aptly tactical. She’s not just an ideal opponent for Mickey — in that they both want their way and only one can get it — but a fitting mirror for the protagonist; not quite a partner in crime, but a buddy in the sense Edmund Exley and Wendell White (“L.A. Confidential”) were buddies that genuinely didn’t get along. It helps that Black-D’Elia shows some restraint while playing the snotty teen, allowing subtle moments to land with greater comedic emphasis by not pushing them too far.

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The Mick Sofia Black-D'Elia Kaitlin Olson Fox

Some of those moments rank among the episode’s best, like when [spoiler alert] Mickey tricks Sabrina into eating an owl she thought she’d saved. But it’s notable that all of the best moments come when “The Mick” approaches its broadcast barriers: the opening montage of foul acts; Alba (the excellent Carla Jimenez) trying to have fun with Mickey; when Mickey finds a way to not say the word “cunt.” Later, Mickey uses the phrase “thumping techno” and it sounds, for a moment, like “fucking techno.” Was it purposefully said as such by Olson, in order to get to the nasty side of the show the series can’t? We may never know, but it’s nice to think so.

Such efforts are almost enough to make “The Mick” must-see. Between Olson and her talented cast-mates, there’s certainly enough here to merit future sampling, but this wannabe-badass sitcom could really earn its stripes by shedding its leash (somehow). We’ve seen how delightfully dreadful Olson can get on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (which airs on the cable channel FXX), and the parts of this family comedy with the greatest potential are the ones that keep it from becoming family friendly. Creators Dave and John Chernin deserve credit for not using swears, sex, and drugs as comedic crutches, but there’s just too many things they can’t do to make “The Mick” its truest self.

“The Mick” is clearly better suited for cable or streaming, so how it defines itself in the next few episodes will prove its long-term worth.

Grade: B-

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