The Holiday Series Showdown: Merry Happy Whatever vs The Moodys

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Who would have guessed that the battle to reign supreme with holiday programming would come in the way of dueling limited holiday-themed series?

OK. It's not exactly a battle royale, but Netflix is releasing Merry Happy Whatever starring Dennis Quaid and Ashley Tisdale while FOX is challenging the binge-watch with The Moodys starring Denis Leary, Elizabeth Perkins, and Jay Baruchel.

The premises for both are essentially the same. It's Christmas time for family get-togethers with all that entails.

Merry Happy Moodys

Both families have traditions to uphold and family members that need to arrive from out of town. It's adult children all around, and some are married, some are single, some are in love, and some are in the process of separating.

On Merry Happy Whatever, the Quaid's widower, Don Quinn heads the family, and he has four children, three girls and a boy.

While also led by a Denis, it's Leary's Sean Moody, Sr., and his wife Ann (Perkins) who command their brood.

The Quinns Go Caroling

The Quinns welcome home daughter Quinn (Bridgit Mendler) and her new (and unwelcome) boyfriend, Matt (Brent Morin) while The Moodys welcome home Dan (Francois Arnaud) after a breakup to a girl the family comes to appreciate despite their status (it's a big thing).

In another similarity, Tisdale's character gets news about her divorce while Chelsea Frei as Bridget Moody has just gotten a divorce.

And before this gets out of hand, despite the seemingly limited natures of both series, they both end open to the possibility that more family events and holidays could be in the cards.

The entire point is that, yes, there are a lot of similarities between the two series, so much so that you might not want to watch them both.

The Moodys Go Caroling

So you need to know which family, and which series, is worth the investment, and I have your answer.

The casts leave little to be desired on either side, but the production makes all of the difference in the world. And, ultimately, it could come down to your personal taste.

Merry Happy Whatever is the traditional sitcom format with more canned laughter and dramatic pauses to allow the laughter to flow than any one person should be forced to bear. Can you tell I'm not a fan of traditional sitcom values in 2019?

The Moodys, though, is a modern comedy without canned laughter or pauses for laughs just in case you aren't intelligent enough to be in on the joke.

Don and Nancy on Merry Happy Whatever

That's a huge difference between the two series, but it's not the only one.

The Quinns aren't as well developed as The Moodys. The writing is so busy hoping to garner inane laughs that a lot of it is done at the expense of character.

Don Quinn is a hard man for those outside of his immediate family, and even embracing his sons and daughters-in-law isn't an easy task for him despite their overwhelming support of him in the wake of his wife's death.

It takes a bit of time for Don to recognize behavior in his kids, and a lot of the story requires him to be an abrasive, and somewhat dense father figure.

The Moodys Find Their Perfect Tree

Even worse, he's a teetotaler never hesitates to bring up his love of Pepsi and register disdain for anyone who doesn't share his, uh, passion.

An actor the caliber of Dennis Quaid deserves better, and he seems uncomfortable with the format.

And it's not just that it's kind of cheesy, either, because Quaid rocked Jaws 3-D, The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (hey, we're both old), and did a terrific turn with absurd content on Goliath Season 3.

Quaid can lean deliciously into the right cheesy goodness, but on Merry Happy Whatever, he's too good for the material, and it's hard to imagine he doesn't know it.

Quinn Family Girls

Sean Sr. and Ann are hardly centered individuals, but there is a lot of love in the Moody family. Like Don Quinn, Sean Moody, Sr, doesn't drink, but he's earned that right through hard work.

Ann, though, doesn't have a problem hitting the wine to get through the holidays and she'll be even happier drinking it if her new bathroom gets finished.

Like all parents, they have blindness when it comes to their children, but they can also read their kids. When Sean Jr. is suffering financial troubles, Sean Sr. manages to reach out to him and offer a helping hand without making his eldest feel as if he's failed in any way.

Where Quaid is struggling in his role, Leary is right at home as the husband and father of three.

The Moody Siblings

Perkins is an excellent choice as Ann, and it's a good week for her as Apple's Truth Be Told also premieres and offers an entirely different view of the versitile and talented actress.

The Moodys parents, although they get through with a healthy dose of sarcasm, never do so at the expense of their family's happiness.

Merry Happy's Quinn isn't afraid to manipulate a situation to get what he wants, while the Moodys aren't afraid to manipulate a situation to get their kids what they want.

Merry Happy's Morin also seems trapped in a show that doesn't deserve his talent, and he's the standout within the Quinn family.

The other standout is outside of the family. Garcelle Beauvais plays a nurse who frequently encounters police officer Don and the two become romantically linked, and her presence helps ease Don's more abrasive nature.

Men at Odds on Merry Happy Whatever

The Moodys cast is more of an ensemble with each of the Moody children having a complete arc that develops over the short season.

Baruchel, Arnaud, and Frei are all funny in their own right and hold their own for more poignant moments, too. There isn't a weak link in the cast, and it makes watching a pleasure.

I'm not going to go into details with either series because it's a lot more fun to discover the intricacies of shows for yourself. The experience is ruined the more you know.

But I also couldn't help but guide you a bit. It's the holidays. We all have family or friends we'd prefer not to visit. With two full families vying for your attention, who should you spend time with this holiday season?

Toasting Family and Friends

Merry Happy Whatever isn't a terrible show, but they're the people you'd want to leave as soon as the clock strikes midnight of any particular holiday. Overstaying their welcome seems to begin a little too early.

The Moodys embrace you warmly with a rough approach, spending they're the family you can't wait to visit during the holidays and always make you wonder why you don't get together more often.

So, will you ring in the holidays with the Quinns or the Moodys, or will you stick to existing traditions?

And the Winner is?

Which Show Will You Visit for The Holidays? View Poll »

Merry Happy Whatever - 2.5/5 Stars

The Moodys - 4.5/5 Stars

Merry Happy Whatever premieres on Netflix November 29.

The Moodys premieres on FOX Wednesday, December 4 and continues on December 9 and 10, running run two 30-minute episodes across the three nights.

Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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