NBC's 'Welcome to the Family' Premiere Episode Makes Us Think the Series Is D.O.A.
There's a lot of potential in NBC's Welcome to the Family. It's got the basis for some great characters with pregnant, air-headed high school graduate Molly Yoder (Ella Rae Peck) and her parents Caroline and Dan Yoder (Mary McCormack and Mike O'Malley). But the elements the show tries to rely on the most are some of its weakest.
First of all, the show's entire premise is anything but groundbreaking. Television has done pregnant teenagers (Glee, 90210), and it's done clashing races, cultures, and families(most recently with the offensive ¡Rob!). Even the show's final twist (spoiler alert: the mom of a pregnant teenage girl is also pregnant) has also been done before (The Secret Life of the American Teenager). Structurally, there's almost nothing interesting about this show aside from the fact that it reverses the rom-com trope of a smart, hardworking woman getting involved with an air-headed, freewheeling man. So the show has to bring some great jokes or vibrant characters from the get-go to even capture its audience's attention.
But that moment never comes. A lot of the show's "jokes" are simply cute, or have the cadence of a joke, or are like a joke we've heard before — but they're not clever or even laughable. Both Ella Rae Peck and Mary McCormack give their characters real energy. McCormack is tough, but not afraid to be goofy, and Peck gives Molly a nuanced, ethereal ditziness, but neither of them have any real jokes.
And then there's Mike O'Malley, who's given a great performance in his Glee appearances, and here plays more or less the same Regular Joe he's always played. But Dan doesn't have the same heart and warmth as Burt Hummel, so we're left to rely on whatever humor O'Malley can provide, since he's clearly the star of this show. But in 2013, his kind of "goofy dad constantly trying to prove his masculinity" character seems incredibly out of date.
What's more, the show seems to really rely on the dynamic between Dan and the baby daddy's father, Miguel (Ricardo Chavira). Not only are neither of these men compelling or funny characters, but this kind of stubborn conflict between men constantly trying to out-macho each other is unfunny and tired. Yet the show focuses on this aspect more than anything else in the families' relationship, even more than the actual teenage pregnancy that brought them together.
And the show barely touches on the other side of the relationship, with father-to-be Junior and his parents Miguel and Lisette Hernandez. Miguel and Lisette have no character traits aside from being strict parents and the two-second "grew up without a father" story Lisette tells Caroline about Miguel. And I actually want to punch Junior, who has no discernible wants or needs other than to be what he thinks is a "good guy." Molly accepting Junior's marriage proposal is the first exchange of potentially real emotion we see between the two.
To give Welcome to the Family credit, it could be a lot worse. It could easily take a sharp turn into an offensive clashing cultures comedy like ¡Rob! or a teen pregnancy melodrama like The Secret Life of the American Teenager. But the very fact that this is one of the better things about the show doesn't bode well for its longevity.
The fact is, Welcome to the Family has its foundation in a script and a structure that is weak and crumbling. It's not good enough to attract critical acclaim, and it's not big or familiar enough for mainstream America. Even with a better script, the show's chances would be slim, so as it stands, this show looks dead on arrival.