'Welcome to the Family' premiere is a groan-worthy introduction

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Image Credit: Adam Taylor/NBC

I wanted to like Welcome to the Family, I really did. It has a strong cast playing the two sets of parents. Its premise is straightforward, and even contains some weighty issues. Its lead-in is Parks and Recreation.

But I don’t. I strongly disliked the premiere. The show, which centers on two families who must overcome their differences because their teenage children are about to have a baby and want to stay together, had potential, but because everything that could have been good about Welcome to the Family (a.k.a. “WTTF,” as the promos continue to bash into our heads) fails to deliver. The jokes are flat, the characters are annoying and the dialogue is bland. I don’t think I laughed out loud once.

I did, however, groan a lot. I groaned whenever Dan (Mike O’Malley) or Caroline (Mary McCormack) made a crack about their daughter Molly’s (Ella Rae Peck) apparent stupidity. “That’s right,” Dan triumphantly says after her graduation. “She’s gonna be Arizona State’s problem now.” A few scenes later, he notes it again: “Nobody rejects our daughter except the lengthy list of colleges and universities,” he says. It may have been mildly funny the first time, but it just sounds mean after half a dozen repetitions.

I groaned at the Romeo and Juliet-esque forbidden romance between Molly and Junior (Joseph Haro) and their uncomfortably sticky-sweet dialogue. (“You’re my plans,” Junior tells Molly after she reveals her pregnancy. “I love you ’cause you always say the right thing,” she replies.) Plus, that dual proposals subplot? Maybe it’s better not to talk about that.

I groaned at the incessant over-the-top arguing between Dan and Miguel (Ricardo Chavira), Junior’s father. Miguel thinks Dan raised a reckless daughter who has ruined the bright future Junior could have had (the kid was valedictorian and headed to Stanford), while Dan thinks Miguel spent too much of his time forcing his son to succeed, only making him careless enough to knock up Molly. That’s it — that’s the argument. But the show ends up making the conflict seem petty and endless, because both Dan and Miguel say the same things to each other, along the lines of “What the hell kind of parenting is that?” It’s the only angle the show tries.

Ultimately, it’s wasted potential because it’s all generic and absolutely bland. What bothers me the most is how hard the show tries to force that blandness. I’m sure it wasn’t the writers’ intention, but when a comedy boils what could be poignant observations about an interracial couple and the dynamic between their families down to one half-baked punchline — “When did this become about me having issues with Latinos? I have an issue with THAT Latino” — all substance goes out the window. This is not a creative sitcom. It’s one that recycles material we’ve watched countless times before in a Thursday night comedy lineup because it’s meant to attract wider audiences.

It’s too bad. Like I said, I enjoy O’Malley and the adult cast, and it’s clear they’re trying to make the material work. There were moments that were almost laugh-out-loud funny — the visual gags with O’Malley and Chavira racing across the pier, Junior’s little brother ecstatically snapping pictures of the families arguing — but the characters have no personality, resulting in a pilot that’s disappointing and utterly pointless. WT(T)F, indeed.

Still, maybe you liked it far more than I did, and maybe the show will improve — after all, we’ve only seen one episode, and new shows always experience growing pains. What’s your reaction to Welcome to the Family? Share in the comments below.

Welcome to the Family airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

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