I like to go in blind to my reviews, and all I knew about the show “The Kids Are Alright” was that it was on ABC, it took place in the 70s, and it was about a Catholic family. As the episode opens, you realize it is a combination of Eight is Enough (they have eight boys), Roseanne (blue collar family), The Wonder Years (voice narration), Young Sheldon (origin story), That 70s Show (yes, it is the 70s), etc. Kind of a weird hybrid.
The pilot has three plot lines running through it. First, you have to meet all the whole damn family because they are 10 living in a house for 4, and it’s cramped, chaotic, and noisy. Second, oldest son Lawrence is home from the seminary (you know, oldest son in Catholic family is reserved for the priesthood) but with long hair and sexual desires, he’s thinking about quitting. And third, narrator Timmy (not actually providing the voice of the narrator but the main viewpoint) wants to try out for Children’s Theatre against Mom’s wishes and instructions.
Sam Straley plays Lawrence and does a decent enough job with limited materials. Jack Gore plays the middle child Timmy and also does an okay job with limited material and screentime. Like I said, the scenes are VERY chaotic, quick cuts and takes. The parents keep it together for the plot, and Michael Cudlitz does a pretty good job as the dad. He has credits out the wazoo over the years, and although I recognized him from lots of shows (often playing a cop or a security guard), I had to check IMDB to figure out he was in Band of Brothers. A bit of a cliché for most of the episode until he has a serious scene with his oldest son while sitting in a car watching a rocket launch.
But the big surprise for me was Mary McCormack as the mom. For most of the episode, she’s doing wisecracks and one-liners, keeping it moving, no time to stop. And then she does stop. Twice in fact. Once to have a serious conversation with her husband about what she wants with her kids and their future, and once when she’s watching her son audition for a theatre production. I miss her on In Plain Sight back in the day (six years ago isn’t exactly back in the day, but you get my drift), and I REALLY liked her here. The comedy framework and family dynamic works for her, and when she stops to actually have a serious moment (or two), she totally shines.
Is it enough for me to watch? Not on your life. I originally predicted renewal, but there just isn’t enough in the episode for me to keep that prediction. I’m going to predict CANCELLED.