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“Welcome to the Family” Pilot Review

welcome-to-the-family

This charming comedy, which comes with a perfect hashtag (#WTTF), feels like a throwback to ye olden days of the network sitcom. A simple premise (two very different families must blend together) grounded in reality, but given a somewhat modern twist by having the families cross a cultural divide. One family is white, and the other is Latino.

Veteran actors anchor the show, but nearly all of them are known for their dramatic roles, save for Mike O’Malley, who’s a sitcom vet (Yes, Dear) and who might be best known these days for playing Kurt Hummel’s dad on Glee. His wife on the show is played by Mary McCormack, who’s coming off the USA network character procedural In Plain Sight.

O’Malley and McCormack share a good chemistry, and McCormack has great timing, killing it with some one-liners to cement some painfully awkward scenes. They give off a real sense of having struggled to raise their rebellious, independent daughter, Molly (played nicely here by Ella Rae Peck) who has grown into an assertive, but dumb teenager.

Their Latino “foils”, as it were, are played by Ricardo Chavira who transformed Carlos from prick to lovable prick on Desperate Housewives, and Justina Machado, who played Frederico’s long-suffering wife on Six Feet Under. Their characters aren’t quite given enough material as their white counterparts, but Chavira and Machado do what they can with what they get, which is enough – for now.

Their son, prim-and-proper Stanford-bound valedictorian is played with much gusto by Joseph Haro. It’s quite a 180 turn for Haro, whose biggest role to date was the flamboyantly gay Clark on MTV’s Awkward, a role which he nailed. To see him acting so butch was a bit of a head-scratcher at first, but that just goes to show you his versatility as an actor.

The first half of the pilot feels a bit slow, as you wait for the parents to find out what their kids have done. But once they get together, the comedy really begins to flow nicely as they all struggle with the idea that not only they will be grandparents, but their goals and plans for their children – which they’ve looked forward to for eighteen years – have gone up in flames.

The show cements its “throwback” status by including a chase in the final act, as the parents find out Molly is about to ride a roller-coaster. As the fathers, who have been feuding, race towards the ride to stop Molly, things predictably turn slow-motion. However, this is the day and age of Twitter (as evidenced by that wonderful hashtag NBC is selling like crazy – remember, people: #WTTF) and twists in our shows we have come to expect.

The big reveal in the last few seconds of the episode will probably be enough to bring back some viewers – and come back the viewers should. It’s hard enough to find a decent network sitcom that manages to feel old-fashioned and relatable in this day and age, but Welcome to the Family seems to want to step up to the plate.

Watch the first episode here. Welcome to the Family premieres October 3rd at 8:30/7:30 PM central on NBC.

Written by: Josh Feldman