June 4, 2013



THE FOSTERS:  Monday 9PM on ABCFamily

For the most part, ABCFamily’s new THE FOSTERS takes a nicely low-key approach to material that could easily have been cloying or vapid (or both).  Our entry point into the story is Callie (Maia Mitchell), a troubled teen who, upon her release from juvie, is taken in by an extremely blended family.  Lena is assistant principal of the beachside San Diego charter school that will, conveniently enough, serve as one of the show’s principal settings; her wife Stef (Teri Polo) is a cop.  Together they’re raising Stef’s biological son Brandon (David Lambert), whose father is Stef’s ex-husband and fellow cop Mike (Danny Nucci), and twins Jesus (Jake T. Austin) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez), whom Lena and Stef adopted after initially taking them in as foster parents; by the end of the pilot, it’s pretty clear that not just Callie but her little brother Jude (Hayden Byerly) will be joining the family.

Apart from one winking reference to The Brady Bunch, The Fosters pilot, written by series creators Brad Bredeweig and Peter Paige (their only previous show was the short-lived CW unscripted series Fly Girls–this show is presented under the aegis of Executive Producer Jennifer Lopez) plays it very straight.  Everyone on the show, of course, has their issues:  Callie and Jude were recently in an abusive foster home; Jesus is on medication; Mariana has not only been taking her brother’s pills, but is trying to have a relationship with their birth mother, who sees her mostly as an ATM; Brandon is trying to get a music scholarship, and he has a pretty blonde girlfriend who seems fated to be Callie’s nemesis.  It feels like one complication too many that the pilot also has Mike volunteering to be Stef’s partner on the force, much to Lena’s discomfort, but we’ll see.  Meanwhile, the multiracial make-up of the family, like the fact that Lena and Stef are gay, is present but not stressed or treated as a problem that has to be overcome.

Lena and Stef are an ideal of supportive parenthood that’s very different from the foster parents one sadly hears about all too often on the news, and they could readily cross over into treacle, but Timothy Busfield’s direction doesn’t push the point too hard (Busfield, of course, hails from that master class of intelligent soap thirtysomething).  Even the last-act crisis of Brandon skipping his scholarship audition to go with Callie to her gun-waving foster father’s house, so she can rescue her brother (while Stef tracks down his cell signal) downplays the melodrama of it all.  The performances are all of a piece, and the show has a comfortable if unsurprising feel.  After this week (when it aired after the finale of Secret Life of the American Teenager), the network has Fosters paired with Switched At Birth, not its strongest show, but a sturdy lead-in.  Fosters seems unlikely to stir heavy buzz of the Pretty Little Liars variety, but it could find a place on summer TV.


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."