You know you're kind of a big deal when you get to create a sitcom based on your own life. Plenty of wacky families exist on network comedies, but few bear any resemblance to anyone's actual childhood. And that's probably for the best. (Would you really want your life to be a series of weekly hijinks? I didn't think so.) But The McCarthys, a new CBS show airing Thursday nights, is in fact inspired by its creator's own upbringing. Just how similar is The McCarthys ' showrunner Brian Gallivan's real life to his fictional alter-ego's? The McCarthys isn't a point-by-point adaptation of Gallivan's younger years. But there is still plenty of crossover between the creator's own experience and those of Ronny McCarthy (Tyler Ritter), the character based on him.
In the show, Ronny belongs to a large family of extremely close-knit Boston sports fanatics. Unlike the rest of the McCarthys, Ronny has no interest in sports — and he sometimes feels constricted by his overly involved parents and three siblings. He's also gay, and while his family accepts him, he feels like a bit of a black sheep at times. In the video below, Gallivan interviews Ritter about what it's like to play a version of your show's own head writer.
So just how similar is the Gallivan family to the fictional McCarthys? As it turns out, they're not so different.
The Big, Sports-Loving, Boston Family is Completely Real
According to an interview with The Wrap, Gallivan did indeed grow up in a large Boston family that related to each other mainly through talking about the Celtics and the Patriots. There are four McCarthy siblings in the show—Ronny, his brothers Gerard and Sean, and his sister Jackie. But in real life, the Gallivan clan is even bigger.
There are a lot of details that are true. I'm the only gay son in a big family and everyone loves sports a lot more than I do. But I actually have five siblings, and my mother is quite lovely and not so meddling. And I have two sisters who are nothing like the sisters in the pilot. So there are a lot of things that have changed, but overall it's this family, and the way they relate is pretty autobiographical...
Gallivan's dad and brother really were high school basketball coaches — though, unlike in the show, they never asked the writer to help coach.
They Both Practice Tough Love
On the show, Ronny gets his fair share of teasing for not understanding "the sports," as he calls his family's favorite pastime. According to Deadline, that dynamic exists in Gallivan's family as well. “My family expresses love through insulting each other and being hateful," the showrunner joked.
But it's Only Because They Both Care
As is clear in The McCarthys, Gallivan's family doesn't mean to be harsh. They just don't always know how to go about showing affection. In the show, the McCarthys go way overboard when Ronny tells them he might be moving to Rhode Island: they build their own gay bar right in the parents' living room. Yes, the gag was mildly offensive, and really embarrassing for Ronny. But at least they try to be supportive. Speaking of which...
Both Families Had a Learning Curve When it Came to Their Son's Sexuality
According to Deadline, a scene in the pilot episode when Ronny's mother asks if he's still gay came directly from the writer's own life, reporting, "[That] was taken from an incident in which one of [Gallivan's] brothers said to him, 'We didn’t know if you were still pursuing it.'" Ronny has trouble finding love, so his siblings weren't sure he could still be gay if he wasn't currently seeing someone. Just to clear that one up: yes.
Ronny & Gallivan are Both Big Alicia Florrick Fans
Ronny and his mother's love of The Good Wife is a reoccurring joke on the comedy. Turns out, Gallivan's obsessed too, as he told Deadline. Well, that's certainly a good sign: if Gallivan can make a show half as entertaining as The Good Wife, The McCarthys should do just fine.
Image: Eric McCandless/CBS