Each December, we know what to expect from TV movies and specials.
“It’s ‘Oh, we’re going to stand around a Christmas tree,’” Elizabeth Perkins said.
There are plenty of those shows …. but now there’s “The Moodys.” Charlie Collier, the Fox programming chief, calls it a “single-camera, dysfunctional family comedy.”
Perkins plays the mom … and an opening scene (a flashforward) has her firing a BB gun at the tree; Denis Leary (they’re shown here) is the dad. “He’s irreverent,” she said. “He’s always willing to go there.”
Bob Fisher, who worked on two previous Leary shows (and co-wrote the “Wedding Crashers” movie) linked with Rob Greenberg, adapting what Collier calls a tale about “a family in Chicago that has all the real issues of family that we do around the holidays.”
One adult son, Sean Jr. (Jay Baruchel, the “Man Seeking Woman” star) lives at home. His brother Dan (Francois Arnaud, the “Midnight, Texas” star) is a photographer in New York, expected to bring his girlfriend Amy. Their sister Bridget (Chesea Frei) is a married lawyer. There’s Christmas joy, except …
The parents have a medical secret – but not the one viewers assume …. Dan and Bridget both have secrets … and Sean Jr. is a general mess.
This is what Perkins calls “a real holiday, not a Hollywood one.” It brings the chaos that might be at any gathering. “It could be a wedding, a funeral, a 4th-of-July – any time that expectations are high.”
Viewers might expect “Married … With Children,” the acerbic Fox comedy. Still, there’s a difference.
These are basically decent people who love each other. They make mistakes – it’s rarely a good idea to steal a Zamboni ice-scraping machine – but try to bounce back. We soon root for them … especially for the immensely likable Dan and his new friend Cora.
This is an international project, adapted from an Australian mini-series. Maria Gabriela de Furia (who plays Cora) is Venezuelan; Arnaud and Baruchel are Canadian and “The Moodys” was filmed in Montreal … which passes neatly for Chicago, a city Perkins is fond of.
Growing up in Massachusetts with two older sisters and a divorced mother (a concert pianist and drug counselor), Perkins went to prep school and was impressed by a recruiter for the Goodman School of Drama, linked with DePaul University in Chicago.
“I had never heard of such a place – a conservatory for theater,” she recalled. “I said, ‘I like doing plays.’ I was lucky; Chicago was just establishing itself” as a theater powerhouse.
Her classmates – including Ann Dowd, an Emmy-winner as Aunt Lydia in “Handmaid’s Tale” – have thrived. Chicago had theater and affordability. “You could ride the El and go to the lake …. As a waitress, I could afford to go to shows.”
She acted with Steppenwolf and other Chicago theaters, then became a movie star.
“Big” (1988), starring Tom Hanks and Perkins, was a breakthrough – a big hit from a female director. “I think Penny Marshall changed the landscape,” Perkins said. “She broke box-office records.”
Marshall died a year ago, at 75, leaving fond memories. “Oh, she was crazy – in this amazing, great way,” Perkins said.
More movies followed for Perkins – “Avalon,” “The Doctor” – and one holiday film. “My daughter finally saw ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ (the 1994 remake she starred in) this year, when she was 28.”
Nowadays, Perkins crosses the media universe. On cable, she got three Emmy nominations as a PTA mom in “Weeds,” then did “Sharp Objects.” On streaming, she co-stars as a convicted killer’s mother in “Truth Be Told,” arriving Friday on Apple TV+. And on Fox, she brings love, concern and a BB gun.
– “The Moodys,” 9 and 9:30 p.m. Dec. 4, 9 and 10, Fox.