Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Real O'Neals Review: ABC's New Comedy Boasts A Great Cast And Lots Of Uncomfortable Moments
American audiences love a good origin story, whether it involves superheroes bitten by arachnids or businessmen born from poverty. Its the coming out experience that gets the spotlight where gay characters are concerned, and thats the foundation upon which ABCs newest comedy The Real ONeals is built. Though much of the shows formula treads on familiar sitcom grounds, the cast and the more imaginative sequences keep the sometimes broad The Real ONeals from coming off as repetitive as so many origin stories tend to be.

Though this is a family comedy, the driving force behind The Real ONeals is Kenny, the 16-year-old son who shakes the earth beneath his Catholic household when he reveals that hes gay. Kenny is played by theater actor Noah Galvin in his first major role on the small screen, and it is no small compliment when I say that Galvin manages to outshine everyone else in this extremely talented cast. Life cant get much more complicated than it does for Kenny, who must deal with how his family reacts and adjusts to his homosexuality, as well as being the only openly gay student at a Catholic school. And Galvin makes every moment his own, reacting with appropriate mixtures of teen awkwardness and obliviousness as he beelines his way from one uncomfortable situation to another.

Now for the parents. Matriarch Eileen ONeal, played by Raising Hope vet Martha Plimpton, is the most devout member of the family, and has just as much non-constructive criticism for her loved ones as she does faith in the Lord. As you might imagine, she has the hardest time dealing with the direction of Kennys sexual awakening, though she deals with it more through cornball avoidance than anything else. Things arent going so well between Martha and husband Pat (Mad Mens Jay R. Ferguson), a police officer who seems like hed be more interested in sitting alone in a quiet room than dealing with everything happening around him.

Kenny is the middle child because of course he is and his siblings fit TV stereotypes a little too snugly. 17-year-old Jimmy, played by Matt Shively, is an athlete who isnt quite a jock and isnt quite a moron, and though he wants to be Kennys protector now that his younger bro has come out, Jimmy isnt always that successful. Then theres 14-year-old Shannon (Bebe Wood), who is reaching that point in her life where shes questioning her faith and is almost too clever for her own good. Id say she was like a copy of Modern Familys Alex, but its really just a slightly older version of Woods own precocious character in the short-lived NBC comedy The New Normal.

the real o'neals

The Real ONeals was created by David Windsor and Casey Johnson, both of whom worked on shows such as Dont Trust the B---- in Apartment 23, Galavant and What I Like About You, among others. But the concept comes from famed author, journalist and LGBT activist Dan Savage, who is probably most known for his advice column Savage Love. The show is loosely based on his own childhood, from the Chicago setting to his parents relationship, although theres no telling whether or not Savage also saw magazine ad models in the mirror.

Dan Savages involvement along with the comedys views on being gay, being Catholic and being anything else was cause for some controversy when the American Family Association and the Family Research Council took it upon themselves to try and get ABC to get the show stricken from the schedule. That attempt went unrealized, obviously, and for good reason. There isnt anything about The Real ONeals to get offended by, unless ones moral code remains glued to the fringe, and those kinds of folks arent going to be watching anyway.

For everyone else that is perfectly happy to sit down with The Real ONeals, though, there is definitely something to enjoy. My favorite bits were Kennys strange and worry-filled fantasy sequences, one of which even features a synergetic cameo from Jimmy Kimmel. But you might be more into the themes of acceptance pushed by most of the characters, or seeing Plimpton back on TV as another memorable mother. Its not the hippest or the most cult-ready show to hit the airwaves, but The Real ONeals is upbeat, silly in all the right ways, and serves as another example of ABCs quiet takeover of broadcast comedy.


The Real ONeals will premiere on ABC on Wednesday, March 2, first at 8:30 p.m. ET, with another new episode airing an hour later at 9:30 p.m. ET. The comedy will then take up its normal Tuesday night slot on March 8. This is hardly the kind of logistical premiere worthy of a show that anyone has any confidence in, but well see how it goes.

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