'Instant Family' Will Pull Your Heartstrings in a Good Way

What started as an older man’s joke about wanting to adopt a five-year-old instead of starting from scratch, Instant Family was inspired by writer and director Sean Anders’ real-life family. Pete (Mark Wahlberg) “accidentally” makes the joke to his wife Ellie (Rose Byrne) not wanting to be become that “old dad” everyone knows and before you know it, the two are traveling down to road toward foster care adoptions. After numerous classes taught by two caseworkers (Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro), the two meet three kids at a “foster fair” gathering. Lizzy (Isabela Moner) is the 15-year-old older sister who has protectively looked after her younger siblings Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz) while their mother has been incarcerated. She’s a tough cookie with trust issues. Juan is both accident prone and highly sensitive and Lita is super sweet as long as she gets to eat potato chips at every meal. Almost overnight they become an “instant family” and everything g…

‘The Kids Are Alright’ is a Family Comedy Everyone Can Relate to

Review of ABC's "The Kids Are Alright."
Back row: Sawyer Barth, Caleb Foote, 
Michael Cudlitz, Mary McCormack, Sam Straley,
Front row: Santino Barnard, Jack Gore,
Andy Walken, Christopher Paul Richards (ABC)
If you didn’t grow up with a mother like Peggy Cleary, you definitely knew somebody whose mother was like Peggy Cleary. While ABC’s family comedy, The Kids Are Alright features an ensemble cast, Mary McCormack steals the show as the mother of eight boys who utters pearls of wisdom like “We can’t afford asthma. Go out and play” and “If you had any talent, I would have noticed it” while making dinner or hemming pants.

Set in the 1970s, the Cleary family is inspired by the childhood of the show’s creator, executive producer and narrator, Tim Doyle. ABC describes the family as “There are 10 people, three bedrooms, one bathroom and everyone in it for themselves.” The family says grace while dishing up in the kitchen and sitting around the dining table. You gotta grab all the food you can or you’ll be hungry.

The pilot tries its best to introduce us to all of the members of this traditional Irish-Catholic family which is pretty tough to do in less than 30 minutes, but you get a pretty good idea of who is who. Lawrence (Sam Straley) is the eldest of the brood who is attending seminary but he’s starting to have second thoughts about his future. Eddie (Caleb Foote) is thrilled that his brother is striving for the priesthood because that puts the pressure off him, or so he thinks. Next in line is Frank (Sawyer Barth) who always seems to be in the right place to know who is doing what they are not supposed to. Timmy (Jack Gore) has dreams of becoming a singer or actor or both. Joey (Christopher Paul Richards) offers sage advice. I don’t remember much about William (Andy Walken) which might suggests that he is often the forgotten child and Pat (Santino Barnard) is the youngest one who is afraid of everything or so it seems. While Peggy may do most of the housework, she doesn’t run the family by herself. Her husband Mike (Michael Cudlitz) is on hand to “handle it” when needed. He’s over the moon that his eldest is going to become a priest but he has a surprise coming to him at bingo tonight.

The Kids Are Alright is a treasure trove of pop culture with numerous references to many things that some of us of a certain age grew up with and can appreciate. The first episode had me laughing from beginning to end and if the rest of the series is as good, we’ve got a new winner. The family is not perfect, but there is actually a lot of love to share if they weren’t so dog-gone busy. I’m intrigued with how much of the family Catholic faith will play out in the show. There is one scene in the pilot that I thought the family would have reacted quite differently. I would love to see one show that can feature a family of faith without making them look like freaks.

The Kids Are Alright airs on Tuesdays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC

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