There was much controversy early on for The Real O’Neals as religious groups and the Family Research Council sought to have the ABC comedy executive produced by Dan Savage deep-sixed. Well, months and several development tweaks later, the single-camera sitcom fronted by Martha Plimpton and Jay R. Ferguson is set to debut March 2 with two episodes. Despite a strong few opening minutes, the trying-too-hard-to-be-quirky series about a truly not-perfect Chicago Catholic family is soon, as my video review above says, pulped into throwback shades of bland.
The truth is that on the road to its premiere, most of what could have offended anyone about The Real O’Neals was long since exorcised. Except if you are offended by a wasted opportunity — because that’s what The Real O’Neals is in this TV era or any other for that matter.
Amidst repression and barely buried household dysfunction the pilot features a looming divorce, anorexia, charity theft, and the almost muted revelation that youngest son Kenny, played by Noah Galvin (who also narrates), is gay. All of this is front-loaded in the first episode and of course, everybody at the O’Neals’ church and greater community finds out — as they do in such shows. The thing is, the supposed disgrace that the once seemingly perfect family suffers isn’t really much to write home about. From what I’ve seen, it’s all pretty standard subpar network stuff from that point on, with a canoe heist, a student election and too many Irish American stunts thrown in where comic relief is usually supposed to be. With Plimpton as the over-achieving matriarch and Mad Men alum Ferguson as the lovable but slightly clueless police officer Dad, The Real O’Neals ambles along with only the odd laugh popping up now and then. And when there is a good line well delivered, it is usually by Bebe Wood as 14-year-old daughter and perpetual schemer Shannon.
So, are you going to watch The Real O’Neals? Take a look at my video review and tell us what you think.