Melissa & Joey – Episodes 1-1 and 1-2 Review

Intentional or not, ABC Family made a smart move when they aired the second episode of Melissa & Joey right after the first. Following a disappointing pilot, the endearing and funny second episode proves that the series has potential.

Melissa & Joey had already been creating buzz thanks to its two former teen star leads – Melissa Joan Hart, of Sabrina the Teenage Witch fame, and Joey Lawrence from Blossom, who recently co-starred in the ABC Family movie My Fake Fiance. The two are reunited in this sitcom about politician Mel Burke (Hart) who takes in her sister and brother-in-law’s two kids, since the sister is in jail and the brother-in-law is on the run with stolen money from a company. Due to the scandal, company employee Joey Longo (Lawrence) finds himself in desperate need of a job and a place to live when his wife divorcing leaves him because he can’t support her.

And that’s how he became the male nanny.

Despite a promising concept,  the episode just isn’t funny at all, even with the overload of jokes. While the show is a sitcom, there can be too many jokes. Comedic timing was a mile off for the whole cast. And the bombardment of one-liners distracted from the actual plot of Mel’s niece Lennox (Taylor Spreitier) being in trouble at school. However I have to admit that Lennox getting suspended for making a creative rhyme about a teacher named “Ms. Lunt” was a good one.

During the premiere, Melissa Joan Hart tweeted that the pilot was filmed months before they started filming the rest of the season. I’m not sure exactly why that affected the episodes so much, but apparently it seriously did – episode two, called “Moving On,” was a breath of fresh air.

In this episode, Mel has a school-girl crush on a fellow politician. Joey tries to recover some of his bruised pride by trying to get back some of his stuff from his ex-wife. And Lennox struggles to make friends at her new school.

For starters, the pace was much slower. The jokes were still there, but they were funnier and more developed – like the running gag of the family watching nature shows on Joey’s big screen TV. It made a world of difference, as I could actually see past the jokes and become interested in the story lines. 

These plots in “Moving On”‘ were much more impressive. Mel and Joey arguing over the meaning of his ex keeping his chair? Loved it. The concept brought in more of Joey’s old life, but focused on just one aspect, making the story line seem more complete. Same with Mel and her potential boyfriend – the twist was an actual twist, because I never suspected that the guy was gay, and shared in her shock. Where as in the pilot, you knew that as soon as something happened with Lennox, Joey was going to calm her down and win Mel over.

Also since the chaotic tone had faded, I could appreciate the characters more. Mel’s friend Rhonda Cheng (Elizabeth Ho) was a funny sidekick and played well. However, for some reason I get the feeling that she might not be in every episode, or even stick with the show in the long run. Her character seemed like a dispensable one, solely there to be Mel’s sounding board and make witty comments. Given all the other possible drama with Joey, Lennox, and Lennox’s little brother Ryder (Nick Robinson), I doubt she’ll ever have a solid role in the show. But again, these are just my hunches based on the first two episodes. Rhonda could end up an invaluable best friend with story lines of her own.

After a shaky start, Melissa &a Joey proves that it has definite promise. Hopefully it will reach its full potential throughout the season.