The Real O'Neals Series Premiere Review: The Real Secret Is It's Just Okay

The Real O'Neals S01E01 & S01E02: "Pilot" & "The Real Papaya"

Family comedies have been ABC's thing ever since Modern Family came along in 2009 and successfully retreaded the dad-mom-three-kids dynamic into monster ratings—and at one time critics' love (it kind of stinks now, right?). Since then ABC has courageously twisted the idea of the family comedy by adding truly unique perspectives (at least truly unique to network television that's been dominated by straight White Devils). Family comedies are now black! And Asian! And, less courageously but still unique, from the 1980s

Enter the latest ABC family comedy with a wrinkle, The Real O'Neals. But this half-hour series, most famous for executive producer and sex-advice columnist Dan Savage, delicately wrings the notion of the fam-com instead of scrunching it into something more precise, leaving it a pale follower to ABC's other trailblazing series. 

Everyone's white in this show, but the deal here is that middle kid Kenny (Noah Galvin) has a secret: he's gay! And that's a problem for his family since they're literally the poster family for their Catholic church. But hey, everyone else in the O'Neal clan has secrets, too! Mom Eileen (Martha Plimpton) and dad Pat (Jay R. Ferguson) are in the beginnings of a separation, older and jockier brother Jimmy (Matt Shively) has an eating disorder, and youngest sister Shannon (Bebe Wood) stole from her charitable fund to buy a car. But these secrets, despite what the show's marketing has stressed as the show's hook, quickly dissipated and The Real O'Neals settled into a sitcom about a family coming to terms with Kenny being gay. That's something we've seen before

The two episodes that made up the series' premiere exhibited how quickly the show was going to be as normal as most family sitcoms. But while not a "special" comedy like ABC's other offerings, The Real O'Neals is middle-echelon plain-old comedy of today's network television thanks in large part to Galvin's incredibly likable performance. He jumped through the hoops of a freshly-out teen, and it's effective because it felt real. The awkward near-sex with his handsy girlfriend, the pep talks with himself (and an imaginary shirtless hunk) in the mirror, and the shock at his family's decision to ignore his coming-out and repress it instead all sparked to life largely thanks to Galvin's wide-eyed reactions. 

But beyond that, things were pretty typical. Plimpton—who I've always thought of as just fine—was the uppity mom, Ferguson searched for his manhood (in the form of his own apartment) for about 20 minutes in Episode 2 before settling back in as the non-pants-wearing man of the house, Shively was the dopey older brother that's become a prerequisite for network comedy, and Wood was the precocious young daughter. Check all the boxes, Real O'Neals!

What was of note were the multiple dreamy sequences that bent reality, like when Jimmy Kimmel showed up for breakfast, or when Kenny spoke to Jesus while ordering breakfast. They don't really fit in with anything else the show did, but I didn't mind them at all. Are they going to become a bigger part of the show? Are they The Real O'Neals' gimmick? Will they be what gives the show its identity moving forward? Are they some form of divine intervention to help Kenny through all of this? Or will they continue to be inserted randomly just because? 

Based on the bar set by other ABC comedies, The Real O'Neals needs to find something bigger to distinguish itself from the rest. But until it does, it will be a perfectly fine plain vanilla show to fill half an hour. 



THE REAL O'NOTES

– I hope the show keeps Kenny's "girlfriend" around. She's funny, and the writers love putting her through pain. 

– Do you think the other kids' "secrets" will ever be a part of the plot or are we moving on?


Comments (25)
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Mar 10, 2016
It was fine. I'll give it a couple of more episodes.
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Mar 09, 2016
I thought it was just meh. Giving it the 4-episode test.
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Mar 09, 2016
Oh, and Jay Ferguson looks so much like Nathan Fillion that I realized I'd rather watch Nathan Fillion in Castle, even though I've never actually watched Castle. Okay, I'll start with Firefly first.
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Mar 05, 2016
The only reason we watched this show is because we thought if it had Plimpton in it , it had to be good. She was hilarious in Raising Hope. WRONG. As the kid was looking in the mirror in the first episode my husband said "if he says he is gay, I am over it". Sure enough.....we turned it off. Sick of the gay crap in every new sitcom.
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Mar 04, 2016
Other thing that bugs me. Why in God's name (pun intended) would you flush unused condoms down the toilet? just throw them in the trash if you're not planning to use them. But then they couldn't make the ceiling is coming down because condoms gut stuck in the water drain pipe joke.

This show is not for me i guess...
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Mar 04, 2016
* got
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Mar 04, 2016
Some physical humor maybe. This is humor everybody understands.

Hey, why are you not laughing? It's an overweight lady in fitness class. So funny right? Like a said. Humor is subjective.
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Mar 04, 2016
* like i said
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Mar 04, 2016

t's funny 'cause you said "hump."

I didn't even blink. Later on Eileen says it again. "kids are humping to hip-hop,
but not in this house" So does that mean that in their house they're humping to Gregorian chants? Same thing, different music.
Jodi: I think I pulled my vagina muscle. Do women have groins?
OMG a vagina joke. I never understood what's so funny about genitalia.
Maybe because i'm not an adolescent anymore? Vagina jokes aren't funny. Period. See what i did there. Not funny. But this is all very subjective of course.
I've seen this a million times before but with better execution. Okay, maybe i'm a little overly negative now. It's okay i guess if you into this type of humor. But not good enough to add this to my weekly rotation. And after Christians come out of church they engage in exactly the same behaviors as we infidels. Only they wish to deny it or at least not talk about it. That's okay, and a little hypocrite. But this isn't exactly news now is it?
More+
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Mar 04, 2016
Plimpton was great in Raising Hope. I wish that show was still on instead...
There is nothing original about yet another gay/closet-gay character. They are in EVERY show now, and it's getting old FAST. And it's sad if they're using a girl to cover it up. :( Also, sitcoms use too much lazy humor. This will most likely be a pass for me.
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Mar 03, 2016
So, Tim Surette thinks Modern Family "sort of stinks now," eh? I guess that means he feels he could write something better himself.
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Mar 03, 2016
All sitcoms are the same. A goofy moronic man child father. An overbearing mother, and the three kids are smarter than they are and they goof off, rebel, always hanging around their friends, hates being with their parents, etc. That's been the premise of every sitcom since the 1990s. Won't be watching this.
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Mar 03, 2016
Good to know you like to judge stuff before you've actually watched it.
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Mar 03, 2016
It was surprisingly funny. A lot better than the worn out Modern Family or the copy cat Blackish. They should keep it around as a Summer show.
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Mar 03, 2016
I made it up until the point the little girl puts the "charity bucket" in front of the waitress about 30 seconds into the pilot. While I love Martha Plimpton, I just can't support this show. I hate the way TV tries to portray Christian families. It's about as accurate as the way police and lawyers are portrayed on TV. And people wonder why we fall into stereotypes/etc. Maybe I should've given it more of a chance, but it felt like just another weak ass Hollywood attempt to turn people away from religion in my opinion.
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Mar 04, 2016
...and here I was thinking it was a weak ass Hollywood attempt at imposing an obnoxious religion on unsuspecting gay people, Like Lady Gaga style. Odd we had such different takeaways.
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Mar 03, 2016
If you didn't watch the entire show, you can't form an opinion. Well...not one anyone cares to aknowledge.
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Mar 03, 2016
Regarding the other kids "secrets" I'm going to go ahead and say we're moving on. The anorexic storyline crumbled and not just because the pancakes were shaped like Jesus, the older jock kept eating all episode and it took me out of it every single time. Why would an anorexic be upset at the prospect of not getting to eat 5-layer dip with his Football game? Why would that same anorexic eat floor candy "from Africa?" If they couldn't make that believable for one single episode, then I doubt it will continue, though when it inevitably comes back it will be as a B-plot in an episode that doesn't have a very strong A-plot
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Mar 03, 2016
Its not bad, i liked it
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Mar 03, 2016
I think I would have liked it a lot more if they didn't keep giving away the jokes in the commercials. I don't even watch commercials and somehow I saw every major punchline before the show aired. ABC needs to learn the art of spoiler free advertising.
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Mar 03, 2016
This was on before, was it not? I could swear this was on mid-season or spring / summer of last year with at least a preview, if not a few episodes? I know it was not the McCartheys or anything similar. I seem to vaguely remember watching it and not liking it, but can't remember what it was about at the moment.
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Mar 03, 2016
I also hope they keep Kenny's girlfriend in the mix but I don't buy the dumb jock's anorexia. How does he not have a cheerleader girlfriend? He's probably have more chances to lose his virginity than his younger brother. Also love the con artist atheist girl.

The show is a funny send-up on all those outwardly wholesome cookie-cutter families, this one Catholic no less, that looks what people want to think is normal but they're actually a mess in more ways than one. There's always some combination of a manic depressive mother, sex-starved husband, alcoholic mom and/or dad, bulimic daughter, and one or more promiscuous, pot-smoking, and/or thieving kid. Sometimes they're actually pretty "normal" but the kids are so sheltered that they go overboard in their late teens when they get a taste of freedom with a car, high school graduation, or a few months away at college.
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