Reviews

October 3, 2019

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Almost Family”

 

ALMOST FAMILY:  Wednesday 9PM on FOX

Whether we like it or not, the strongest lead-in on broadcast television right now is The Masked Singer, which makes it somewhat surprising that FOX has given the precious slot afterward to the mess that ALMOST FAMILY appears to be.  Even more surprising is that the lead producer of the project is Jason Katims, the man behind the TV versions of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood, although Almost Family itself was adapted from an Australian format by Annie Weisman, who’s previously worked with Katims on About A Boy and The Path.

The concept here is clear enough:  a family dramedy with edge, sort of a This Is Us for a downtown crowd.  (The pilot was directed by Leslye Headland, the definition of indie TV cred as a co-creator of Russian Doll.)  The story takes off from several real-life situations, which have served as the inspiration for other narratives:  the revelation that a noted fertility specialist, here Dr. Leon Bechley (Timothy Hutton), impregnated many of his patients with his own sperm, thus responsible for dozens of unwitting half-siblings.  Almost Family tells the story from the viewpoint of three of the offspring, particularly the doctor’s legitimate daughter and assistant Julia (Brittany Snow), an earnest singleton who in the course of the pilot discovers that hard-driving attorney Edie (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and past-her-prime gymnast Roxy (Emily Osment) are among her new sisters.  Each, of course, carries her own complications into the mix:  Julia, before she knew what was going on, had sex with a guy who turned out to be not only married, but a potential half-brother; Edie is married to Julia’s college boyfriend Tim (Mo McRae) but finds herself bi-curious with Amanda (Victoria Cartagena), who happens to be prosecuting the case against Leon; and Roxy pops a dangerous amount of prescription pills.

The problem is that none of these characters is at all engaging, being in varying degrees immature and self-obsessed in overdrawn ways, and despite the pilot’s attempt to make the case that they’re all going to find a sisterhood with one another that their lives had previously lacked, the story doesn’t feel like much more than the tale of a trio of obnoxious roommates.  (Freeform’s The Bold Type, without biological complications, does a much better job of presenting young women in NY as a surrogate family.)  The apparent continuing arc of the criminal case against their father, and the relationship between the prosecutor and Edie, is no more than a contrivance.  Headland does a professional mainstream job behind the camera, but nothing here has the personality she brought to the visuals and soundtrack for Russian Doll.  None of the fine actresses have any nuances to play, and Hutton, recently excellent on multiple seasons of American Crime, mostly looks disheveled.

In a network era where 18-49 ratings below a single point are strong enough for renewal, Almost Family may get enough of a lift from its lead-in to survive, and perhaps future episodes will add some shading to its mix.  (Katims’ Parenthood was notable for growing from its initially unexciting pilot.)  For now, though, the series isn’t even almost good enough.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on screened.com and the-burg.com. In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."




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