June 17, 2014

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “The Fosters”


THE FOSTERS:  Monday 9PM on ABCFamily

THE FOSTERS ended its first season on a near tidal wave of melodrama, and along the way it lost a great deal of the modest charm and believable emotions that had made it work in the first place.  Although tonight’s Season 2 premiere picked up on those storylines, and even added a new left-field twist, series creators (and the episode’s writers) Bradley Bredeweg and Peter Paige seemed to be making an effort to bring the show back to its early, less exaggerated feel.

The Fosters‘ Job character is Callie (Maia Mitchell), a teen who’s gone through countless abandonments, half a dozen foster homes, sexual attacks, a stint in juvie and a doomed love with her foster brother Brandon (David Lambert).  In last season’s finale, she was finally on the brink of being adopted, along with her younger brother Jude (Hayden Byerly), by Lena (Sherri Saum) and Stef (Teri Polo), to be a permanent part of their blended family–only to discover in court that she wasn’t eligible for adoption because the father who raised her as a child, and who had relinquished his rights, wasn’t in fact her biological father (although he was Jude’s)… and no one knew where her real father was.  Her travails being never-ending, in tonight’s premiere she was abruptly yanked out of the Foster-Adams home because their fostering license had lapsed.  (If real-life fostering agencies were one-hundredth as attentive to regulations, the media would be free of the horrible stories that run on a seemingly daily basis.)  Needless to say, Callie was sent to a Dickensian home where she was locked in at night and told to bang on the walls if she needed help.  All of this was, in a word, berserk–Anya Stark has had a more peaceful childhood–and although she was back home by the end of the episode, her adventures will continue, since the audience (but not Callie) knows that her birth father, and an apparent sister, are in the vicinity.    Mitchell brings enormous empathy and an admirably gritty sense of forbearance to her role, but at some point Bredeweg and Paige seem determined to have Callie pursued by every possible biblical plague, from locusts to boils.

Some of last season’s most extreme storylines revolved around Brandon, and those are still in motion.  His musician’s hands were crushed in a car door by a vicious classmate just after he was offered a chair with the local orchestra (it’s still unclear whether, yes, he’ll ever play the piano again), he slept with the girlfriend of his alcoholic father Mike (Danny Nucci), and there’s the implication that Mike may have gotten into a serious, perhaps fatal, fight with Ana (Alexandra Barreto), the drug addicted, blackmailing birth mother of Lena and Stef’s other adopted children, Jesus (Jake T. Austin) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez).  The best that can be said about tonight’s Brandon sequences is that they were at least more low-key then they’d been by late last season.

It was a relief, after all that, that Jesus was just coping with girlfriend trouble, and Mariana with keeping her hair blonde, and that the lurking issue of the sperm donor who never signed his contract with Stef and Lena before impregnating Lena remained in the background, at least for this week.  The Fosters seems to be trying to get back to its core, and the daily interactions of its large family of protagonists.  At this point, however, it’s still wading through a sea of implausible plotting.  The actors are all strong (director Norman Buckley did a fine, unfussy job with everyone in tonight’s episode), and there’s certainly enough material to go around, considering the show’s varied characters, without the need for heavy-handed turns of fate in every episode.  The steadily declining ratings in its spring season (from 0.8 in January to 0.5 in March) suggested that these twists weren’t what had attracted viewers to The Fosters, and one hopes that both the producers and the network have learned something from that for this Season 2.


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."