Oct 14, 2016

[TV] The Real O'Neals: Season 1

With the success of shows like Modern Family, it feels like the nuclear family sitcom is really making a resurgence as of late. The only real quirk is the determination to make each family as "real" as possible by finding a way to shake things. Hence shows like Fresh Off the Boat have done well by exploring a sort of niche of the whole family experience.

I recently stumbled across a mention of The Real O'Neals because of a tweet by RuPaul about having a cameo on the show and that got me curious. Plus it felt like one of those shows I'd keep hearing while watching Fresh Off the Boat or something.

The premise of the show alone didn't necessarily hook me but the convenience of its availability on iFlix made me give the show a shot. I wasn't expecting too much but I think I got more than I had expected from the show but not as much as I would have wanted, if you get my drift.

It's not a terrible show, but it's not great either.

Synopsis: The Real O'Neals is a American sitcom created by Dan Savage and broadcast on ABC. The first season only spans 13 episodes but the series already has a second season airing at the time of this post.

The O'Neals appear to be the perfect Catholic family until everything seems to come crashing down when a moment of honest causes all of the to reveal their dirty little secrets. So we the parents getting divorced, the older son Jimmy (Matthew Shively) having an eating disorder, the middle child Kenny (Noah Gavin) coming out as gay and the youngest daughter Shannon (Bebe Wood) turning out to have some serious criminal tendencies. And how the family deals with all these problems once out in the open while managing their reputations in the community is what drives the show.

What I Liked: While I don't particularly love the character of Kenny (who gets a lot of focus on the show), I do appreciate his imagined companions in life ranging from Jesus to Tim Gunn in this first season. It's not quite Ally McBeal being crazy enough to see a dancing baby but it does provide a fun vehicle for the show to bring in interesting cameos like Jimmy Kimmel.

The mother Eileen (Martha Plimpton) is probably the character that gets the most comedic attention given how her strongly conservative nature is what drives a lot of the humor of the seies. She does well as the comedic "straight man" when the jokes come out but after some time things get a little dry. She's still one of the better characters in the show.

What Could Have Been Better: There's a lot that the show seemingly tries to achieve all at once but fails to do so in the end. We see a lot of moments of potential character development or even some narrative coherence within a story but in the long run things just feel odd or even uncomfortable.

For acting I'm not sure why we have people like Eileen's friend Jodi (Mary Hollis Inboden), who sort of feels like a wannabe Sookie from the Gilmore Girls, but never quite getting that far. Or we have characters like young Shannon whose description as a young thief / morally questionable budding criminal seem interesting but aren't really utilized to full effect.

TL;DR: The Real O'Neals sort of had an idea to kick things off but it's not quite strong enough to hold on its own to really get somewhere. This first season felt like the bare minimum to get renewed for a second season and we'll see if they can't take things up a notch or go the way of The New Normal. Thus this first season only gets 3 celebrity cameos imagined up by Kenny out of a possible 5.

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