Did you know that storylines involving teenage pregnancies are at least 85 percent annoying 100 percent of the time? Did you also know storylines involving teens getting married because they got pregnant fail 95 percent of the time? Yeah, you're right, those statistics are obviously made up, but that doesn't make them any less true. NBC's new comedy Welcome to the Family attempts to make its viewers believe it's telling a new story, but really, the series is just an amalgam of several familiar plots with Mike O'Malley's face on it.
I mean, if Welcome to the Family was a math equation, here's what it would look like:
(Dumb Overprivileged Female + Smart, Hardworking, Underprivileged Male - Sex Education) + Teenage Pregnancy + Teenage Marriage / (Cultural Differences + Warring Fathers) - Humor = Pilot
Okay, so I was never very good at math. WHATEVER. But it's easy to see that Welcome to the Family is pretty damn dull. Competition on TV is fiercer than ever right now, and it really makes you wonder what last development season's rejected pilots were like. Because even though Welcome to the Family isn't offensively bad, it is offensively boring, and to me, that's even worse.
Mike O'Malley and Mark McCormack star as the parents of Molly (Gossip Girl's Ella Rae Peck), an irresponsible young gal who barely graduated high school. They can't wait for her to leave for college so they can have their lives back, apparently so they can have a lot of sex and start working out. They make a ton of jokes at their daughter's expense, and while parents being horrible can be funny, they're often more mean than they are funny. In fact, they kind of make you feel bad for their daughter. I'm not saying this is a nature-versus-nurture situation, but if you want your daughter to make it through high school without getting pregnant, maybe don't treat her like a complete idiot, even if she is one.
But not knowing whether she's a complete idiot is part of the Welcome to the Family's problem. Molly is a stereotypical dumb blonde, but the show can't seem to decide whether she's a complete airhead or just bad at the book learnin'. She's forgetful and often mixes up her words (please don't let that being a running joke; it wasn't even funny the first time), but after presenting her as a total dummy for 90 percent of the pilot, the show turned around and had her skip getting on roller coaster because she's stupid but not pregnant-lady-on-a-roller-coaster stupid. The scene was probably meant to show the audience that people aren't always what they seem, and that Molly (and by extension, the show) might be more interesting that we first thought, but the truth of the matter is, both the character and the series fall pretty flat.
Obviously Molly didn't get herself pregnant, so that's where Junior comes in. Naturally, he's the exact opposite of Molly. He's intelligent, he was valedictorian of his class, and he's going to Stanford in the fall. Or at least he was planning to go to Stanford; now he's skipping college because Mr. Smartypants somehow failed sex education and knocked up his girlfriend. Oh, and he also lost his mind and has decided to not only stay behind with Molly, but to marry her. I'm not advocating that Junior leave Molly high and dry, but when has getting married ever resolved anything?
All told, Welcome to the Family's premise is pretty old and worn. Old and worn can sometimes mean comfortable and familiar, but I don't think that's the case here. Like, if Welcome to the Family's owners held a garage sale, its storylines would be the freebies they tried to give away with the purchase of an old toaster or a ratty beanbag chair. But the pilot does bring up a good question: Why is it so hard to come up with an interesting or intriguing storyline about teenage pregnancy that isn't drowning in clichés?
So, uh, I obviously really disliked this pilot. At first I thought it was simply boring—and I still think it is—but the more I thought about it, the angrier it made me. It's a waste of O'Malley, who's proven himself to be an asset for series like Glee and Justified, and it definitely hasn't found a way to make the overdone merging-of-two-families feel even remotely fresh. The choices the characters make are careless. The jokes aren't very funny. The show doesn't have much heart; it's more of empty shell. The characters are sketches of typical sitcom archetypes at best. Really, the only believable and interesting aspect of this show so far is that Junior's father was super pissed about his son throwing his life away.
– What's the deal with Junior's little brother?
– What's going on with Mary McCormack's hair?
– Are you good at math?
– Why do the two fathers really hate each other? Their encounter at the gym was obviously not a pleasant experience, and I know that realizing one child knocked up the other probably doesn't make it much easier. But their hate seems so superficial. That being said, both O'Malley and Ricardo Chavira act as anchors for their respective families, and they do it quite well. I just wish their antagonistic nature toward one another had more meat to it.
– Do you think an NBC executive just pulled five sitcom tropes out of a hat and strung them together like one of those magnetic poetry sets that everyone uses to make dirty jokes on their friends' refrigerators and called it Welcome to the Family?
– Even though *I* will be sticking with this show at least for the duration of the 4-Episode Test, don't feel like *you* have to. I don't foresee it making any daring leaps into greatness any time soon.
What'd you think of Welcome to the Family's series premiere?
AIRED ON 11/21/2013
Season 1 : Episode 8