2 out of 5
Created by: Annie Weisman
Covers season 1
Fertility doctor Leon Bechley (Timothy Hutton), known for running a successful clinic and seemingly liked by the public, has quite a sudden fall from grace when he’s accused of using his own genetic material to father children over the years. He doesn’t exactly deny the claim, but tries to stand behind the ‘just’ morality of it; his daughter, Julia (Brittany Snow), another public face of the company, has to dually deal with her dad’s company (and her employer) tanking, and also a sudden influx of tons of half-brothers and sisters, including a friend she’d had a falling out with over a boy, Edie (Megalyn Echikunwoke), and an ex-Olympian, now fame-junkie Roxy (Emily Osment).
Bechley may have fathered up to 100 kids… but for the sake of TV, we focus on these three newly-related sisters. In a better program, there might be a reason given for that focus, but in Almost Family, we do the funny introductions and then just stop there. There’s a joke about Julia having slept with a guy it turns out she was related to, and that’s as far as that joke goes. There’s a plotline that wants to find humor in Edie having a lesbian tryst behind her husband’s back, playing up double entendres and whatnot, and then when the writers realize that might be in bad taste, they try to flip-flop it in to serious drama. Our adult women frequently act like children, in their personal and professional lives, and our actors are blessedly game for this unforgiving writing, which has Julia seeming helpless, even though she’s been partially running a business, makes Edie seem like an idiot, even though she’s a successful lawyer, and lets Roxy be the goofball joke, which makes the eventual attempted swerve of her arc toward something heavier come across as pandering, with her sisters holding her hand and telling her it’ll be alright.
Leaning more into comedy, Almost Family might’ve been a bit sharper. Timothy Hutton has a great blank-faced calmness to his portrayal of Bechley, and Snow is quite frequently very entertaining at being out of sorts at all times. When things are just kinda going wrong and our three sisters bond over that, Almost Family works. But the hackneyed “morals” about family that are shoved in, and the high school relationship dramatics that seem like summaries of social media feuds and comments, drag the show down into the wells of dumb TV. Along with the willful ignorance of how the overall story is mapped out – as just an easy excuse to get the main three actors together – we wind up with a high concept and good actors keeping a show moving along, despite some huge weaknesses in its writing.