September 14, 2013

TV: Welcome to the Family (Thu 8:30, NBC)

Premieres October 3; pilot currently available at Hulu.

Fine cast, and a workable premise, all let down by mediocre writing.

It's high school graduation day in Los Angeles. At one school, Molly Yoder (Ella Rae Peck) is graduating, to the delight and mild surprise of parents Dan and Caroline (Mike O'Malley and Mary McCormack). Across town, Junior Hernandez (Joseph Haro) is his school's valedictorian, and his parents Miguel and Lisette (Ricardo A. Chavira and Justina Machado) are thrilled that he's off to Stanford. Neither family knows that their kids have been dating, and it's not until the middle of his valedictory address that Molly texts Junior to tell him that she's pregnant. So, we've got a culture clash between two families, the setup for what could be a smart comedy about class and race in a very multicultural city.

But the writing falls short, content to tell jokes about Molly's stupidity -- grumbling about restrictive gender roles, she whines that society is too "patriotic" (and the joke's repeated later on with the word "parochial") -- and the macho rivalry between Dan and Miguel. This being television, the mothers are limited to being the reasonable ones who want to make peace between their families. And there's a horribly ill-advised plot twist in the last thirty seconds of the episode that does not bode well for the show.

The four actors playing the parents are all familiar faces, and they're all more than capable of handling better material than they've been given here. In the younger roles, Haro comes off better than Peck, who is working the ditz thing just a little too hard.

I like these actors enough -- O'Malley and Chavira in particular are working ridiculously hard and doing as much as humanly possible with what they're given -- that I might check back in a few weeks to see if the writing's gotten any better, but this is not an encouraging start.

No comments: