October 3, 2013

PREMIERING TONIGHT: THE SKED Pilot Review – NBC’s “Welcome To the Family”


WELCOME TO THE FAMILY:  Thursday 8:30PM on NBC – Change the Channel

NBC continues is retro approach to fall comedy with WELCOME TO THE FAMILY. Even more than Sean Saves the World and The Michael J. Fox ShowFamily seems intended for viewers just an AARP mailing away from TVLand, for whom the very idea of a white family and a Latino one intermingling–and a teen girl pregnant, oh my!–induces a bit of a gasp.

Welcome to the Family was created by Mike Sikowitz, a long-time senior writer/producer of Rules of Engagement (his credits go back to Friends), and it’s unaccountably single-camera, even though you can almost feel the cast pausing after their punch-lines for the live studio audience to laugh.  The concept couldn’t be more basic:  intelligent, aspirational Junior (Joey Haro) and dim-bulb (i.e., blonde) Molly (Ella Rae Peck) discover on the day of their respective high-school graduations that she’s pregnant.  Actually, to give some idea of the comedy in this thing, even though Molly is supposed to genuinely care about Junior, she gives him the news by texting him from the audience of her graduation while he’s in the middle of giving the valedictorian address at his.  This being American network television, there’s not even the slightest pause to consider whether the 18 year-olds should have the baby, and instead we swing right into Telling The Parents, with a slight detour for whether it’s sexist for Junior to ask Molly’s father for her hand in marriage.

The respective mothers, Lisette (Justina Machado) and Caroline (Mary McCormack) are shocked but generally warm and understanding, but the dads!  Miguel (Richardo Chavira) and Dan (Mike O’Malley) blame one another for bad parenting, and to make things even more hilarious, by random coincidence, the very day that they were about to learn about the pregnancy, Dan walked into Miguel’s boxing gym for an advertised free lesson, and without even knowing that their kids were dating, they didn’t like each other at all!   Of course, by the end of the pilot, a joint family amusement park day where all the parents panic (unnecessarily) that Junior and Molly might be endangering the pregnancy, the two big lunks are already starting to bond.

After the remarkable work he’s done over the past few seasons on Glee and Justified, shows and roles that together allowed him to show an almost Orphan Black-like range, it’s little short of painful to watch Mike O’Malley saddled with this kind of third-rate material, because we know that he can do so much more even just playing a TV dad.  McCormack, Machado and Chavira are also all longtime reliably likable TV presences, here making use of mere ounces of their talent.  Even Peck had more to do on Gossip Girl than as this show’s ditz (the running gag is that she’s so dumb she constantly loses her phone and everything else).  Michael Engler keeps things moving behind the camera, but there’s no real way to class up this kind of writing.

The Thursday 8:30PM timeslot, where Welcome To the Family will reside, is an odd one, with Vampire Diaries and X Factor, but also the Once Upon A Time spinoff on ABC and CBS’s own new family sitcom The Millers.  Expectations for NBC will be low, with Parks & Recreation supplying a very modest lead-in, and a mid-1 rating is potentially enough for survival.  In that context, Family could conceivably last for a while, even in 4th place for the half-hour.  There’s room for many kinds of niche in the new TV world, and that includes the niche of absolute mediocrity.

One final note:  at the very end of the Welcome To the Family pilot, there’s a reveal that I suppose I shouldn’t–well, reveal.  But suffice it to say that it makes the prospect of the ongoing series even less promising and more painful.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."