March 2, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “The Real O’Neals”


THE REAL O’NEALS:  Tuesday 8:30PM on ABC – Change the Channel

Whatever its other ailments, over the past few years ABC has had an extraordinary run of diverse, smart family sitcoms,–an area where other networks have struggled badly–with Fresh Off The Boat, Black-ish and The Goldbergs building on Modern Family and The Middle.  (Even the network’s cast-offs like Trophy Wife and Cristela have been better than many of the shows the competition has on their air.)   This season, though, has been tougher–Dr Ken may survive the season, but doesn’t deserve to–and THE REAL O’NEALS is a fairly woeful addition to the line-up.

The ethnic group this time is Irish Catholic, and the style, perhaps because of changes behind the scenes (“developers” and showrunners Casey Johnson and David Windsor have supplanted series creators Joshua Sternin and Jennifer Ventimilia) is a hash of a basically broad style that feels more like multi-camera than single, with fantasy sequences that strongly recall Man Seeking Woman.  The show’s focal point is teenage Kenny (Noah Galvin), who in the pilot came out to his family as gay.  As it turned out, he wasn’t the only one of the O’Neals with a secret:  mom Eileen (Martha Plimpton) and dad Pat (Jay R. Ferguson) were planning a divorce, dim-witted athlete brother Jimmy (Matt Shively) had an eating disorder, and seemingly perfect sister Shannon (Bebe Wood) was scamming the family’s congregation with a fake charity.

The second episode, which also aired tonight as part of ABC’s “preview” of next week’s official premiere, addressed the aftereffects of the pilot’s revelations, but quickly narrowed its focus to Kenny’s sexuality.  (All it took was a plate of Jesus-emblazoned pancakes to get Jimmy eating again, Pat decided he’d move down to the family basement, and no one seemed to care at all about Shannon’s lying and stealing, although her atheism was brought in at the last minute as a plot point .)  Johnson and Windsor’s script zeroed in on Eileen’s state of denial about Kenny, leading her to encourage him to have sex with the girl he’d been using as an unsuspecting beard, Mimi (Hannah Marks).  The humor was on the level of Mimi successively being splashed with orange juice, falling downstairs after stepping in a plate of ham salad, and being hit (unintentionally) by Eileen’s car, mixed with a fantasy appearance by Jimmy Kimmel and another shot as a nod to Will & Grace.

None of the characters emerged as particularly interesting or original, and even Plimpton, who had exactly the right touch in the silly-meets-surreal Raising Hope, seems at a loss.  Perhaps with some time, O’Neals will come up with more sources of comedy than Kenny’s gayness (the episode’s tag was all about his siblings labeling all his shirts as “blouses”) and the thick-headedness of the other family members, but the show hasn’t demonstrated it yet.

The Real O’Neals is moving into the Muppets slot on Tuesday, facing off against The Voice, NCIS and The Flash, and the only thing it has going for it is that it should be more compatible with Fresh Off The Boat as a family sitcom.  However,  it’s so inferior to that superficially similar show that it’s going to suffer by comparison.  With a short midseason run it’s going to need to prove quickly that it has some substance and cohesive style to offer.

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."