January 14, 2014

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “The Fosters”


THE FOSTERS:  Monday 9PM on ABCFamily

In its first half-season, THE FOSTERS pulled off a feat of considerable difficulty.  Its saga of multi-racial lesbian couple Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum) and their mixed brood of Stef’s biological son Brandon (David Lambert), adopted twins Jesus (Jake T. Austin) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez), and foster brother and sister Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Jude (Hayden Byerly) is inclusive to the point of political correctness and loaded with melodrama, and yet it’s maintained a light and individualized touch, with emotions that feel real and not pre-packaged.

The premiere of the season’s back half, written by series creators Bradley Bredeweg and Peter Paige and directed by James Hayman, picked up the morning after the summer finale, which featured Stef’s and Lena’s wedding, and it was mostly concerned with the cliffhanger that ended the episode:  Callie running away from home, convinced that her feelings for Brandon were going to lead to not just her but her brother being put back into the system, a situation that had already resulted in her being raped by another house’s “older brother.”  It was a somewhat unusual hour, because there was relatively little of the family together, what with Callie on the road and Stef and Lena trying to track her down, aside from one nicely-shaped scene of Stef’s ex-husband–and partner on the San Diego police force–Mike (Danny Nucci) pitching in and attempting to deal with breakfasts and lunches for a quartet of demanding adolescents.

By the time Callie was borrowing a phone from a teen hooker who looked like she’d been shipped in from a 1950s cautionary tale, her story felt like it had gone as far as it could go, and it appears Bedeweg and Paige thought so too, since in the next scene Callie was getting herself arrested, which will certainly bring her back together with Stef and Lena next week.  Still, the script deserves credit for not allowing the mothers to find Callie by sheer chance, or in some kind of imminent danger, which would have been the cliched resolutions of that story, and also for the way that Callie was mostly allowed to maintain her stoic demeanor even as her world was falling apart.

The only other matter dealt with in the episode was a decision to clear the decks of the recurring character Lexi (Bianca A. Santos), Mariana’s BFF and Jesus’s girlfriend, whom the producers must have felt had run her course, since they sent her out of the country more or less permanently with her illegal immigrant parents.

The Fosters handles its melodrama well, but what sets it apart from obvious family soaps is that it also finds time, as it did tonight, for a charming scene where Jude and Stef’s mother (guest star Annie Potts) played with the new adjustable beds her mom bought as a wedding present, which was just there to build the show’s sense of character, not to advance any major storyline.  Polo and Saum are a believable, loving couple whose sexuality is treated matter-of-factly, and the young actors, especially Mitchell, express tangled youthful emotions without overdoing them.

While not a breakout hit like Pretty Little Liars, The Fosters did quite nicely for ABCFamily last summer, especially in that network’s target younger female demos, and built as the season went on and word-of-mouth spread.  A show like this, without a franchise or central mystery to build upon, is a delicate organism, and it’s likely the series will ebb and flow creatively depending on what’s happening in the narrative.  Already, though, the show has set down a strong foundation of characters who make sense and are worth caring about.


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."