September 11, 2013



Ever have one of those friends who was pleasant enough but really bland? You know, that harmless guy or gal you would only hang out with 1 on 1 if there was nobody else around? WELCOME TO THE FAMILY is kind of like that. It’s a show that really wants to be liked and would hurt no one but is so gosh-darn average that you’ll forget about it as soon as it’s not smiling blankly in your face.

You have to give NBC credit for trying (again) to re-create the elusive magic that turned MODERN FAMILY into a hit for ABC. Alas, as we’ve seen time and again, NBC can’t even copy well. SMASH was their disastrous version of GLEE and THE NEW NORMAL was an ill-fated stab at getting a Dunphy/Pritchett clan of their very own. Both shows were high profile flops. I don’t see a much brighter future for WELCOME TO THE FAMILY, though it could fly under the radar and end up sticking around. NBC is, after all, the network that gave the universally reviled WHITNEY a second season so I guess anything is possible in Peacock country.
(L TO R) Ricardo Chavira, Justina Machado, Mary McCormack and Mike O'Malley from WELCOME TO THE FAMILY.
To be fair, WELCOME TO THE FAMILY isn’t a bad show, it’s just not a great one. Where THE NEW NORMAL was an obnoxious and often offensively stereotypical mess, this latest spin on the mixed family meme at least has enough smarts to be pleasant and ingratiating. If you don’t mind a sit-com that is light on laughs and are looking for some background noise while you tinker on your tablet, this could be the perfect show for you.

In a nutshell, the bimbo daughter of a white family gets knocked up by the ultra-smart son of a Latino family. Hilarity ensues. No, it really doesn’t, but the knocked up part is true.

The cast is exceptionally strong and deserves much better material. In fact, this is a series you’ll give a second chance to solely because you feel that odd combination of warmth and pity toward adult leads Mike O’Malley (Kurt’s dad on GLEE), Mary McCormack (IN PLAIN SIGHT), Justina Machado (a veteran character actor who always does great work) and Ricardo Chavira (one of the most inexplicably underrated members of the DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES cast).
Ella Rae Peck and Joseph Haro from WELCOME TO THE FAMILY.The young couple is played by Joseph Haro, a real find who is incredibly appealing, and Ella Rae Peck, the only weak link in the cast. One minute she’s mangling the English language and the next she’s a well-composed feminist. Either way, her talent tank is running at half full. In fact, Haro is so engaging you really get kinda pissed that he’s stuck with such an empty vessel. Of course, that does help gin up the empathy factor for his parents.

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY was created by Mike Sikowitz, a guy with a string of middling sit-coms under his belt (RULES OF ENGAGEMENT, THE CLASS and GROUNDED FOR LIFE, to name just a few). Sikowitz also wrote the pilot script so it’s pretty easy to point the finger of blame here. At the end of the day, even a cast this good can’t compensate for bland and generic writing by a guy who excels at churning out bland and generic television.

To make matters worse, the series is in a tough time slot. It’s got to contend with the heavily touted ONCE UPON A TIME IN WONDERLAND on ABC, the buzzy sit-com THE MILLERS on CBS (which also happens to be the lead out to BIG BANG THEORY, the #1 comedy on television) and resilient vet THE VAMPIRE DIARIES on The CW. That doesn’t leave many scraps for the unremarkable to feed on.

It’s a shame, really, because the cast is game and there is definitely a place for a quality comedy about families like this. Unfortunately, WELCOME TO THE FAMILY isn’t that show.

WELCOME TO THE FAMILY debuts October 3 and airs Thursdays at 8:30PM E/P on NBC.