'Welcome to the Family' Series Premiere: Mike O'Malley's Show Needs to Find Its Voice
After the loss of so many of its comedy staples, NBC is desperate to rebuild its famous Thursday night comedy lineup. This season, it's bringing out the big guns: Michael J. Fox's oh-so-hyped return to television and Sean Hayes' much-less-hyped return to television fill out most of the schedule, along with returning favorite Parks and Recreation. Rounding out the lineup is Welcome to the Family, a comedy that, like NBC Thursdays on the whole, appears to be trying to throw everything at the wall just to see what sticks.
Welcome to the Family has star power (Glee vet Mike O'Malley and Desperate Housewives alum Ricardo Chavira lead the cast as feuding fathers). It has drama: We start en media res, with a teen pregnancy announcement. It has racial tension: The families are white and Latino. Yes, Welcome to the Family has everything... except a sense of direction.
The set-up is simple: Molly Yoder (Ella Rae Peck) and Junior Hernandez (Joey Haro) are in love, but they come from different worlds. She's, for the most part, the personification of the dumb California blonde and has coasted (to the point of barely graduating) at her prestigious, well-funded high school. He's a brilliant overachiever and his class valedictorian and has clawed his way into a spot at Stanford. The Yoders are upper middle-class and their parenting style is hands off. They like to let Molly make her own mistakes. (Something she's certainly done — they joke about her pregnancy.) The Hernandezes are working class and patriarch Miguel (Chavira) is a helicopter parent, hovering over Junior and pushing him for success.
As if that weren't enough for a premise, however, Miguel Hernandez and Dan Yoder (O'Malley) despise each other, thanks to a chance run-in at Miguel's boxing gym just hours before the kids break the news. Of course, thanks to Molly's rebellious tendency to keep things from her parents, they don't even realize she has a boyfriend and therefore don't make the boxing gym connection. The hatred is of the arch nemesis variety... at least in the minds of the characters. In reality, Miguel turns Dan away from his gym for being a pudgy white guy who he predicts will waste his time for the free first lesson and then never return. Pudgy white Dan is offended by the very thought of this and thus the battle is born.
The tone of the series is a little reminiscent of Ryan Murphy's The New Normal (is that just the pregnancy plot clouding my judgment?), but minus the tongue-in-cheek frankness that underscored that series. I'm not saying that Welcome to the Family is doomed; I'm just saying it's not there yet. Only time will tell.
Highlight of the pilot: Molly, an attempted feminist, is enraged that Junior asked her father for her hand in marriage before asking her. In response, she marches up to Miguel and asks him for Junior's hand.
Low point of the pilot: Every time someone makes a joke about how crippling stupid Molly is — even though she really isn't.
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