October 11, 2013

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Welcome To the Family”



A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on WELCOME TO THE FAMILY:  What could possibly be funnier than the unplanned pregnancy of 18-year old recent high school graduates Molly (Ella Rae Peck) and Junior (Joey Haro)?  Well, what if she were a flighty Anglo and he a studious Latino?  And what if their dads Dan (Mike O’Malley) and Miguel (Ricardo Chavira) hated each other on sight, even when they met randomly before knowing their kids were involved?  And wait for it… wait for it… even though mothers Caroline (Mary McCormack) and Lisette (Justina Machado) get alone fine, what if it turned out that Caroline was shockingly pregnant too?  Funny, right?  Right?

Episode 2:  Let’s cut to the chase.  The second episode of Welcome To the Family climaxes with Dan and Miguel deciding to work out their differences by… it’s worth the wait… punching each other simultaneously in the balls.  So there’s that.

Clearly NBC, series creator Mike Sikowitz (who wrote the episode) and all the other powers that be were just fine with the pilot template of Welcome To the Family, and this is the series they want to make.  The only mild change is that Molly is a bit less of an air-head than the pilot suggested, which is fine except that Sikowitz hasn’t given her anything else to play, so now she’s just bland.  The rest is the same spectacle of fine, eminently likable actors doing their level best with material several leagues beneath them.

The episode, directed by Michael Engler, picked up where the pilot left off, with the major issue being how Dan would find out about Caroline’s pregnancy, and what his reaction would be.  After a first act of not-quite-farce as Caroline and Molly turned out to have sonogram appointments back-to-back with the same doctor (Molly had to keep explaining that she wasn’t 42 years old), it played out exactly as you’d expect, as Dan first ran away from the big news and then, after the aforementioned mutual balls-punching, had a tear in his eye as he watched Caroline’s sonogram.  Bad comedy and bad sentimentality make an unsightly combination, and that basically describes Welcome To the Family.

NBC’s big comedy decision this year was to go with sitcoms as middle-of-the-road and family-friendly as anyone could imagine, with the results being Welcome To the Family, Sean Saves the World and The Michael J. Fox Show.  To which it’s fair to ask:   How’s that working out for you, NBC?  Last week the trio scored 1.1/1.4/1.7 in the ratings, about as popular as a seet of mid-level cable originals.  Family had the lowest of those numbers, and if it slips any lower (and new series usually do post-premiere), it’s unlikely to last very long even by NBC standards, so it doesn’t merit much rumination.  Its cancellation will free its excellent actors, all of whom perform here as though they believe in the material, to move on to perhaps better projects (although it’ll also free them from their paychecks, which is a sadder consequence), and the sad saga of NBC’s Thursday will continue.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  When Bad Sitcoms Happen To Good Actors


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."