THE REAL O’NEALS
I don’t know if Paul Lee, president of ABC, is trying hard to tell us something, but he really badly wants a comedy about coming-out on the air. He decided to order both single-camera comedy pilot The Real O’Neals (briefly entitled Family of the Year), inspired by gay activist Dan Savage’s childhood, and multicamera comedy Family Fortune, based on stand-up comedian Fortune Feimster’s real life story. The good news is both are good and strong contenders for a pick-up, but the sad one is probably only one, if none, will make it to next year’s schedule. I don’t see ABC ordering both, especially since they have very little space for new comedies. Plus, competition is stiff with Nerd Herd, Delores & Jermaine and Chevy being very strong possibilities too, while Knoxville & Uncle Buck are less interesting propositions but can’t be counted out yet (and I’m not done reading all of them).
The Real O’Neals is the safer choice because it fits perfectly with ABC’s brand, alongside Modern Family, The Goldbergs and all the others. And I think the writing is a little bit stronger. The fact that the narrator is a teenage boy makes it sound like Fresh Off the Boat too, which can’t be a bad thing. Honestly, I’m already in love with these people, especially with the mother, Eileen, an always impeccably dressed woman of faith, whose passion is perfection. Some sort of new Bree Van de Kamp, if you want. And if I have troubles imagining Martha Plimpton in her shoes, I can’t wait to see the result! She couldn’t have found a more different role than this one, compared to her Raising Hope‘s Virginia. We’re talking a lot about diversity these days, and I find The Real O’Neals pretty convicing in that regard. They’re white, yes; but above all they’re christians. And it’s been a long time since we haven’t seen a christian family on TV, in a comedy that is not preachy in any way. All of their beliefs are suddenly questionned and they realize they are not the good christians they thought they were. They may even be the worst of their neighborhood. And that’s an hilarious discovery for us. Kenny’s coming-out is in fact just one event among others. And the least of their problems!
Family Fortune being a multicamera on a channel where only one has worked for a long time (Last Man Standing), a very classical one indeed (did I say Republican?), its destiny is way more uncertain, which is a shame because it deserves an order at leat for its cast. I don’t know about Fortune Feimster, haven’t seen any of her work yet, but Annie Potts+John Carroll Lynch+the hilarious Parker Young+Lacey-long time no see-Chabert, it is a big big “yes!” for me. And it’s produced by Queen Tina Fey, for Christ’s sake! I have a total trust in her instincts about Fortune Feimster. And TV definitely needs a lesbian heroin, even more if she’s not the pretty kind. That’s diversity too, guys! Outside of the coming-out part, which is dealt with really well, the sitcom is probably less original than The Real O’Neals for many reasons, especially the mother & father dynamic that we have already witnessed countless times, but it works… so much! I mean, they’re hilarious, her because she’s totally selfish, him because he’s an angry bear. I’m realizing they’re exactly like Sam’s parents in Samantha Who? for those who remember. The idiot brother is a comic genius. Damn, I love them too!
So, what will be Paul Lee’s decision? In a perfect world, he would give both a chance and the best one would win on itw own merits. Since TV is far from a perfect world, I guess The Real O’Neals has the upper hand: it’s in-house produced and less risky. Me, I decided not to choose. I love both, I want both. And it’s not me coming out as bi, hum!