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Review: The Real O’Neals (ABC) - Maybe being normal isn’t the most important thing

By on March 3, 2016

The Real O'Neals

The Real O'Neals

You know how ABC is the go-to place for family comedies that revolve around rather crazy families? Well, they have just added another one of those shows to their slate. The Real O’Neals, revolving around a not-so-normal Irish Catholic family, premiered in the Wednesday family comedy block with two episodes leading out of The Middle and Modern Family, respectively, before moving into its regular Tuesday timeslot leading out of Fresh Off The Boat.

The matriarch of the O’Neal family is Eileen (Martha Plimpton, Raising Hope), a devout Catholic mother of three who has devoted her life to doing charity work for her church and showing the community how perfect she and her family are. In fact, they are literally the poster family for the church. The problem, of course, is that they are absolutely not normal. Eileen and her husband Pat (Jay R. Ferguson, Mad Men) are in therapy and considering a divorce, after having to get married and trying to make it work when Eileen got pregnant on their second date.

The result of that second date is eldest son Jimmy (Matt Shively, True Jackson, VP), a wrestler who is struggling with an eating disorder. The youngest child of the O’Neal family is Shannon (Bebe Wood, The New Normal), who turns out to be a notorious thief with very creepy tendencies. The middle child and main character of the show is Kenny (newcomer Noah Galvin in a very likeable performance), who is the most normal family member even after coming out as gay in a strict Christian family.

Kenny’s coming out, however, is the catalyst that makes the O’Neal family spiral out of control, at least in the judging eyes of the rest of the community. Eileen freaks out and tries to get her family to behave ‘normally’. Even though she was panicking before about Kenny having sex before marriage, she now tries to have him sleep with his girlfriend before he manages to come out to her as well. In the meantime, Pat and Jimmy don’t stick to her plan and go looking at apartments for Pat. At the end of the day, everyone has to come together at Shannon’s science fair. The subject of her project? Disproving the existence of God.

The Real O’Neals revolves around a massively chaotic family and Eileen’s futile attempts at getting herself and her family members back in line. Of course, this leads leads to hilarious situations, but the thing is that in essence, the O’Neals are a really loving family at heart. That may be a little (or make that a lot) predictable, but it is also necessary for a family comedy.

The best part about The Real O’Neals is Noah Galvin’s great performance as the freshly out gay teenager who is part of a devout Irish Catholic family. It is refreshing to have a gay character on a TV show that is not flamboyant (looking at you, Modern Family), but keeps it very real by being just a regular teenager who gives himself pep talks in the bathroom mirror. Only this time, it is a shirtless male cologne model talking back to him instead of some pin up girl, while in the background there is a huge statue of the Virgin Mary to remind everyone to put the toilet seat down. (Oh, and there are also scenes where Kenny talks to Jimmy Kimmel at breakfast and to Jesus at lunch. I guess these dream sequences are going to be a thing on the show).

Sure, The Real O’Neals may not be pushing the envelope as much as Fresh Off The Boat or Black-ish. All characters are white and Catholic. But then again, divorce and homosexuality still remain issues in strict Catholic communities. However, The Real O’Neals is still worth watching because it has Noah Galvin with his wide-eyed reactions to Eileen’s crazy that make even her most mediocre lines entertaining.

The Real O'Neals airs on Tuesdays at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.