ABC's newest family comedy, The Kids Are Alright, situates itself around the Clearys, a 1970s Irish-Catholic family made up of Mike, Peggy, and a whopping eight sons. The family is on a tight budget, plays by strict rules, and when the children get older and start to break the mold of what's expected, things get a little dicey. If it sounds like a relatable premise, that's probably because The Kids Are Alright is based on a true story.
That's right — creator of the show Tim Doyle drew from his own upbringing to nail the vibe of The Kids Are Alright, according to Variety. The article states that like the narrator of the show, aptly named "Timmy," Doyle himself was the fifth of eight children growing up in the same time period in which the show takes place, and both the show and his childhood are based in Los Angeles.
In an interview with MediaVillage, Doyle seems a little surprised that the idea for the show was well-received, but he's certainly not complaining. "I didn’t expect anyone would be interested in the Tim Doyle origin story," he said. "[The fact] that stuff that is so personal to me feels relatable to other people is surprising. I am pretty narcissistic, but not so narcissistic that I think everything about me is fascinating."
Doyle continued in the same interview that though certain plot points and stories have been given to various members of the TV family, pretty much everything stems from his own experiences, even if the number of children might seem a little hard to believe at first.
"The most contrived part of the pilot is that the family has eight boys, which is [also] the most accurate," he said. "I grew up in a family of eight boys, no girls. Yes, some of the material, some of the inspiration, some of the moments have been kind of divvied up to different characters and this and that. The character of Timmy, who is a bit of a jackass who's got this wonderful verve for putting himself in front of the audience, that's pretty much me."
It helps that the show delves into issues that most families have dealt with in one way or another — money, bucking parental expectations, and just figuring out how to exist under one roof together. The family is really where the story lies, and endless plotlines can come out of that limited scope. Doyle says for that reason, he's hesitant to bring in more characters to interact with a core cast that's already so big — it could give them too much to handle.
"I'm trying to stall as long as possible going to the kids’ school, or the dad’s office, or any of that stuff I want to try and keep folding the show in on itself and having the people interact as much as possible," Doyle said in the Variety piece linked above. "What’s it like when Frank and Joey are off on an adventure together? What happens when William gets into a conflict with mom? It’s like trying to get all the possible permutations. If you mix and match all of the characters in different ways, there’s probably already like a thousand variations."
Far too many shows on TV find themselves accruing a bloated cast over time — The Kids Are Alright is setting itself up with a large one right off the bat. But judging by Doyle's past, he's accustomed to juggling plenty of relationships at once. Now viewers will decide just how well all of his experience translates to screen.