“The Moodys” bills itself as a “holiday comedy event series,” which is really just a grandiose way of describing a longer-than-usual movie, being diced into three parts on Fox. If the presentation feels like a bit of an experiment, the content — adapted from an Australian show — is too familiar to be much more than ho-ho-hum.
Indeed, the series has a lot in common with “Merry Happy Whatever,” another comedy about a big raucous family assembling around the holidays that — like “The Moodys” — mostly makes you yearn to go re-watch the old standbys. Only in that case, the Netflix show is shot like a traditional sitcom, whereas this Fox series goes the single-camera route.
Denis Leary and Elizabeth Perkins play the parents, whose three grown children are each going through personal challenges as everyone gathers at the family home. The youngest, Dan (Francois Arnaud), is supposed to bring his girlfriend, but she just dumped him, prompting mom to want to discuss his “self-destructive relationship patterns.”
Sister Bridget (Chelsea Frei), meanwhile, has recently strayed in her marriage, while the oldest, Sean Jr. (Jay Baruchel), is still living with his parents, hatching get-rich-quick schemes while avoiding serious work.
Mom and dad are hiding their own secret, fostering tension there, but the kids are pretty much a testament to self-absorption, prompting Sean Jr. to tell his brother and sister at one point, “Stop fighting. You’re both god-awful people.”
The various crises complicate the customary festivities, like mom’s desire for a harmonious holiday and Sean Sr.’s commitment to family caroling. In the usual holiday-movie fashion, the characters will have opportunities to work through their respective issues over the truncated period of a few days, with plenty of quirky personalities within the extended family surrounding them to (hopefully) liven things up.
The familiar nature of the situations puts the onus on the cast and Fox’s scheduling approach (three installments within a week’s time) to distinguish the project. The problem is that viewers are already essentially doing their own scheduling that upends TV conventions, like essentially turning “The Irishman” into a miniseries by watching it in pieces on Netflix.
Give Fox some credit for testing whether the “limited series” format that’s become so popular with dramas can work with a comedy; still, “The Moodys” doesn’t pack enough freshness into its stockings to bring much holiday cheer.
“The Moodys” premieres Dec. 4 at 9 p.m. on Fox.