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Review: The Family (ABC) - The murdered son is alive, or is he?

By on March 4, 2016

The Family

The Family

The Family premiered in Scandal’s timeslot last night before moving into its regular timeslot on Sundays at 9/8c. This special premiere alludes to the show’s loose connection to the Shondaland empire. The Family has been created by Jenna Bans, who has been working for Shonda Rhimes as a writer and executive producer on Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. Thematically, however, The Family is more similar to, say, Secrets & Lies than any of the Shonda shows.

The Family revolves around the repercussions for a family, and the small town they live in, when son Adam (Liam James, The Killing), who was supposedly murdered a decade ago, suddenly turns up alive and well. Not only is this a huge adjustment for all family members, it also shocks the police officer (Margot Bingham, Boardwalk Empire) that handled the case ten years ago and the man that was wrongfully incarcerated for the murder (Andrew McCarthy, Weekend At Bernie’s).

Matriarch Claire Warren (Joan Allen, Georgia O’Keeffe) has jump-started her political career ten years ago by playing the sympathy card and getting elected in the city council. Now, she has become mayor of the small town she lives in, and is considering a bid for Governor of Maine. Her daughter Willa (Alison Pill, The Newsroom) is a devout Christian and her mother’s chief of staff/campaign manager. Other son Danny’s (Zach Gilford, Friday Night Lights) life has spiraled out of control and he now spends his days with booze and half-naked girls in motel rooms. Husband John (Rupert Graves, Sherlock) has become a grief counselor and has written a book about what happened.

The Family is a show that revolves around this family dealing with the fallout of Adam’s return, after burying themselves in work, religion or sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll when he first disappeared. However, the pilot has made crystal clear that it will not be concerned with the emotional dealings of the family members, but rather with the political implications for Claire and the reopening of the (ex-)murder case. That makes it a show with twists and turns, which keep you excited and on the edge of your seat even when dealing with such a sensitive subject.

To provide all these twists and turns, The Family’s premiere tried to start up a lot of storylines at once, to be able to switch back and forth and make them interact with each other and make the show more twisty and turny. For now, all this managed to mask the flaws that were present in the storyline of this pilot, such as terrible police work by a young officer seemingly working alone and faked DNA results in a high-profile case in a hospital. But I’m not sure if it will be able to mask these flaws forever.

While the potential is oozing out of this show, the lines are only mediocre and the general vibe the show is giving off is that of a gray and rainy Sunday afternoon. Shows like Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder are dealing on and off with situations that are as serious as kidnapped children, but manage to execute it in a lighter fashion by not always taking itself so seriously and turning a little campy here and there. That’s an approach that The Family would be wise to adopt if it wants to be anything more than the next Secrets & Lies.

The Family airs on Sundays at 9/8c on ABC.