May 27, 2016
The Family, starring two time Oscar nominee Joan Allen, is the perfect thriller to watch while doing household chores. Because even if you miss out on an IMPORTANT REVELATION, another one will be along in a couple of minutes, which is just as SUGGESTIVE and MISLEADING and SHOCKING. There’s so many of these twits that you don’t have to worry about not picking up on anything important, as that importance quickly wanes as another plot point is frog marched onto the screen, accompanied by the hysterical rising, dirge of a score that Wagner himself would find oppressive.
Everyone’s a suspect, because everyone is hiding something, especially random nameless characters who are so obviously GUILTY… but not of this crime. For why would the makers show their hand so early into the series?
The crime in question is the abduction and suspected rape and murder of a fledgling politician’s son, who disappears at a rally when her other teenage kids should have been watching him… and whose spouse does a disappearing act at the exact moment the crime is being committed.
Before the cop (Margot Bingham) investigating her virgin case can dig to deeply into this, she starts sleeping with the father (possible killer) and busts the neighborhood paedo (Andrew McCarthy of Pretty in Pink fame) for the crime, who handily confesses everything, making her career.
But ten years later, a feral teen wanders into her cop shop and points at his missing poster, insisting ‘that’s me’, releasing a self-confessed nonce back into the community at the exact moment Mama Bear (Allen)- now a successful local mayor, and possible Republican candidate for Governor, is launching a campaign to fight for families ‘just like them’.
As is always the way in these show, this family is fucked up. From the alcoholic brother (Zach Gilford) who openly questions if the prodigal son is who he claims to be, to the crucifix-twiddling sister (Alison Pill), now Mama Bear’s campaign manager- who heads straight to the confession box when her brother emerges from the woods, Daddy (Rupert Graves) has made a mint writing self-help books, spoolng gain from his pain, while the victim himself (Liam James) has some peculiar down-time activities, such as looking at videos of his pre-abducted self and working on mimicking his own inflections.
Like ABC stable mate Quantico, The Family is derivative of Shonda Rhime’s far more successful cabal of mystery shows for that same said network (Scandal, How To Get Away With Murder, the forthcoming The Catch). Indeed Jenna Bans, who created it, is a graduate of the Grey’s Anatomy writing room.
But none of her characters come close to engaging like her mentors, while her storytelling reeks from her desperate desire to whip social media up into a storm of salacious indignation, like when she has the local newspaper assign “a lesbian lifestyle blogger’ (Florianna Lima) the task of covering probably the biggest story to break in the newspapers lifetime.
Perhaps that’s because normal journos won’t sleep with people (we presume, given her sexuality) they are not attracted to, to get the story. The Family follows the tawdry template laid down by House of Cards in its portrayal of female journalists, but given how poorly it manages to portray literally every stock character imaginable, you can’t get too worked up about it.
Which is what you can say about The Family as a whole. There’s nothing much here that you haven’t seen before, and won’t see again as “quality’ television continues to eat itself.
It’s like outtakes from Lenny Abrahamson’s Room, which Allen also featured in as a mother reunited with her abducted child, which writhes in the explicit and forgoes all nuance.