October 17, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “The Kids are Alright”



THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT is ABC’s 9th family sitcom currently on the air (10th if you count the quasi-family of Single Parents), which puts it in a meta position not unlike its focal character Timmy Cleary (Jack Gore), the middle child of eight Catholic sons and desperate to find a way to distinguish himself amid the crowd.  In the case of Kids, semi-autobiographically created by sitcom veteran Tim Doyle (he even provides the voiceover narration), the idea seems to have been to stand out by sheer freneticism.  With ten family members, counting mother Peggy (Mary McCormack) and dad Mike (Michael Cudlitz) and little more than twenty minutes of airtime without commercials, the characters are often literally bumping into each other just about constantly.

Among its network’s sitcoms, Kids mostly bumps up against The Goldbergs.  Like that show, it’s a period piece, this time set in 1972, and its overall tone is a dynamic where the family members jocularly insult each other while really being ride or die supportive.  It also seems to have hopes of soothing contemporary fractiousness by explicitly reminding viewers that America has gone through polarizing times before (hey, Watergate!) but come through.

There are only so many characters that can be established in a half-hour, and several of the Clearys are shadowy at the end of the opening episode.  (One is an incipient womanizer, a plotline that can probably only be depicted as charming these days in a story set decades ago, another is a tattletale, and so on.)  The pilot centers on two of the sons.  The oldest, Lawrence (Sam Straley), worries about telling his parents that he wants to leave the seminary that they were so proud to have him enter, while Timmy, as the stand-in for young Timmy Doyle, decides that he wants to be in show business, secretly auditioning for a local show.  Neither of them has anything to worry about, because neatly enough, Dad assures Lawrence he’ll support Lawrence whatever he does (in a monologue that marks the only time the pilot slows down), even while Mom follows Timmy to his audition and instantly buys into Timmy as a future star.

Tim Doyle has been writing sitcoms for a quarter of a century, and The Kids Are Alright is well-paced (director Randall Einhorn manages the traffic effectively), and hits its marks.  Like Doyle, McCormack and Cudlitz are comfortable with their craft.  Kids isn’t the place to go, however, for subtlety or surprise.  (Doyle likes the gag about Peggy claiming to be hip because she watches Sonny & Cher so much, he uses it twice.)  As ABC’s avalanche of similar shows suggests, there’s certainly an audience for warm-hearted, predictable family comedy, so Kids Are Alright may fit in just fine, but unlike Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat or Speechless, it doesn’t try to widen the genre at all.  It’s a 1970s TV dinner of a comedy, easy to heat up, unwrap and consume as long as one doesn’t mind the packaged taste.

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."