In the vein of The Office and Parks and Recreation, this new ABC sitcom portrays the lives of three “modern” families, in a mockumentary style format. One family is fairly “average”–a wife and husband with a teen daughter, a tween daughter and a young son. Mother Claire (Julie Bowen of Weeds, Happy Gilmore) is overprotective (because she was somewhat of a trashy party whore as a teenager) and her husband Phil is a self-proclaimed “cool dad” who uses painfully awkward slang and knows both the lyrics AND choreography to all the songs from High School Musical. The second family is a gay couple (read: bad stereotype of a gay couple), one of which is Claire’s brother. Their story picks up on an airplane heading back to America from Vietnam where they adopted a baby girl, Lily. The third family is headed up by Claire’s father Jay, played by ED O’NEILL (athankyouverymuch). He is married to a young fiery Latina and is raising her son Manny, a fat but passionate little douchebag, from her first marriage.
Now, I’ll say this. This show definitely has its moments. Like when the “cool dad” is trying to prove his street cred and throws in that he’s down with texting. “I text. LOL. Laugh out loud. OMG. Oh my god. WTF. Why the face?” Or when Claire concedes that “If Haley never wakes up half naked on a beach, then I’ve done my job.” Or when Jay and Manny argue about why Manny should not go home and put on a puffy white shirt before going to the mall to confess his love to a 16-year-old photo kiosk worker. Or, finally, when the dramatic fat gay presents Lily to the family with a spotlight and the “Circle of Life” song from The Lion King.
That said, I’m not sure I’m going to follow this show. The humor was a little too forced. It sort of felt like a bad Reno 911 spin-off, like “What would those characters do in a family setting?” I hesitate to use the word “corny” but that’s precisely what it was. For example, Ed O’Neill (whose wife is much younger) is mocked several times for his choice of outfit, a red velour track suit. When a security guard at the mall points at him and says “Mall walkers on the right” he’s had enough! And he goes to a young, hip (white rapper) store and decks himself out in a bejeweled hat and brightly colored gangsta hoodie. Like, really? That’s a cheap laugh if it was a laugh at all. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was when the gay couple get home from Vietnam and they enter a beautiful nursery their friend Andre decorated in their absence. But above her crib is a creepy mural of the two of them, naked-ish, with wings, floating amongst the clouds. What? I can’t.