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Fall 2013 Review: Welcome to the Family

28 Oct

I want that panda

Yes, I know, this is my first review of an already cancelled show. There will be more. That’s just how it goes sometimes. Every show that makes it to air deserves the dignity of being thought about for one half hour.

Welcome to the Family is a very much in the wanna-be Modern Family vein, as NBC attempts to imitate ABC’s fairly successful brand of comedies . One way in which Welcome to the Family mimics Modern Family’s approach is by starring a big family which is not normal in the traditional nuclear family way, but by portraying abnormal as the new normal approach. In this case, it’s the merger of two families by an unlikely marriage. Mike O’Malley is Dan and In Plain Sight’s Mary McCormack is his wife, Caroline. They’re thrilled that their hard-to-control not-the-sharpest-tool-in-the-shed daughter Molly somehow made it to high school graduation and is about to go off to Arizona State, letting them have some valuable them time, getting in shape and having sex again, etc, etc. Meanwhile, Miguel and Lisette are thrilled that their son Junior is about to graduate high school as valedictorian and be off to a much deserved spot at Stanford. Everyone’s plan changes, however, when it turns out that Molly is pregnant by way of Junior, her boyfriend, and they decide to keep the kid and stay home to raise him rather than travelling to school, irritating both sets of parents who were look forward to their kids going away for different reasons.

This situation is exacerbated by the fact that Dan and Miguel had a run in earlier in that same day that did not end well. Dan brought a coupon for a free boxing lesson to Miguel’s gym, which Miguel refused to honor because he thought Dan was just going to waste his time and never come back (let’s note that Miguel is clearly in the wrong here – no one made him put out the coupon – that level of customer service is truly appalling and I hope Dan writes a terrible yelp review). So while the son and daughter love each other, the two dads hate each other, and the moms are just trying to make everybody play nice while being stunned by the entire situations. When Junior and Molly decide to get engaged, the families realize that like it or not, they’re going to have to get a long if they want to be part of their children’s lives.

Welcome to the Family is a thoroughly mediocre show.  A note about mediocre shows before I go on, though.

I don’t want to sit around defending a mediocre show, but when you watch every new network television show in the course of a month you get to really know the differences between the really bad shows and the simply mediocre.  In this context, mediocre shows don’t look that bad, not because they’re any better, but because you realize just how difficult even mediocrity is to achieve. It’s a surprisngly high bar. Especially for comedies. It’s much easier to make a mediocre drama than it is to make a mediocre comedy. Most dramas are at least vaguely tolerable, but many comedies are not.

Welcome to the Family is certainly of the mediocre rather than the truly terrible variety.  It’s surprisingly well meaning. The characters are mostly likable, and while the son and daughter are a little cartoonish – the daughter in particularly is disturbingly empty-headed – it’s largely amusingly so. I didn’t really laugh much, but I my face creased into a slight smile a few times in the episode. Mike O’Malley has grown on me over the years and was one of the best parts of Glee during the brief period I was still watching Glee for some reason. The acting is competent, the premise is fairly sound and the writing is certainly not cringe-inducing.

Is it funny? Well, no. It misses the mark. Just because it’s not so bad doesn’t make it good. Some comedies are good without being funny, because of the excellent characters, writing, filmwork, or plot but while there’s nothing wrong with it, none of those pieces are incredibly compelling in and of itself. If it was funny, it’d be good, but there’s not a whole lot going on that would make it worth watching without the humor. Oh well.

Will I watch it again? It’s a mediocre show, not a terrible one. There’s really no reason to return to the show but I’m glad I watched one so I can give it credit for the mediocrity it managed to reach.