Ever watch a show and think, “Man, they are trying way too hard to say IT’S A SITCOM!”? If you haven’t, try watching Ep1 of Fam, and see what it is like when actors show they’re acting instead of inhabiting the characters. It’s a little better than an SNL skit, but not by a lot. I predicted CANCELLATION and I’m sticking with that.
The basic gist of the show is a yuppie-ish couple, mixed races (how diverse!), just got engaged and are ready to start planning their life together. Enter the bride’s younger sister who is 16, just dropped out of school, about to live with a drugdealing boyfriend. Dad is hopeless, so much so that the bride told her groom he was actually dead. Sis asks her younger sis to move in, let’s make this blended family work. There’s no actual plot anywhere in here, it is more like someone threw a bunch of buzzwords into a hat like “blended family”, ethnic diversity, clueless Dad, reformed sister, bad sibling, etc., and came up with a show that fit the demographic hopes of a marketing strategy gone wrong.
Nina Dobrev plays the older sister/bride, and while she spent 8 years on The Vampire Diaries, none of them seemed to prepare her to act in a sitcom. But bad acting from Degrassi might have doomed her. She’s cute, she has a fun haircut, and she delivers her saccharine sweet lines with gusto, but it’s 2019. A little grit wouldn’t hurt. Tone Bell plays her husband-to-be, and he is the nerdiest black character since Carlton on Fresh Prince. He constantly tries to be funny, but he only shines when he’s serious.
The supporting cast is just plain odd. Odessa Adlon plays the street-wise 16-year-old, beer-drinking, dry humping, half-sister, who seems more like an innocent 12 year old. The street would eat her up in a heartbeat. The parents of the groom are played by Sheryl Lee Ralph (easily recognizable, but hard to place — had to go all the way back to It’s A Living to figure it out) and Brian Stokes Mitchell (equally familiar, all the way back to Trapper John, M.D. to spot him though). But their scenes are all written as one straight line, one comedic commentary line, one straight line, one comedic commentary line, etc.
And finally Gary Cole plays the clueless father of the bride. First described as a narcissistic psycho, Cole plays him like a clueless lovable goof. WTF? Sure, he’s not a great dad, but a narcissistic psycho you cut out of your life? Hardly. And it pained me to hate the character. I like Cole in a lot of things — Suits, Chuck, and more importantly, as VP Bingo Bob on the West Wing. Yet he’ll always be Jack Killian of Midnight Caller to me. Sigh.
So it’s not great casting. It’s not great plotting. It’s not great writing. But even if some of that could be fixed, it is supposed to be a sitcom. You know, FUNNY. Not a single funny line that wasn’t tramped on, mashed or overridden through the whole episode. Not one laugh.
And that? You can’t forgive. Hard pass. “Fam” might be the new “family”, but only if “can” is the new “cancellation”.