TV Review - The Fosters

Teri Polo stars as Stef Foster, an officer with the San Diego Police Department. Sherri Saum co-stars as Lena Foster, Stef's wife and a vice principal at Anchor Beach Community Charter School. Stef left her husband, Mike Foster, played by Danny Nucci, because she realized she was gay and that she was a woman who fell in love with another woman. Before leaving Mike, she had a son named Brandon. After marrying Lena, they became foster parents and adopted two, Hispanic, fraternal twins: Jesus and Mariana.

They do so when Brandon is five-years-old and the twins are a year younger. The story begins 11 years after that when Brandon is 16 years-old and the twins are about to celebrate Mariana's Quinceañera, which is a special birthday celebration in the Latino community that's comparable to a Bat Mitzvah.

The man who helped Stef and Lena adopt the twins also recommends that they help another foster child named Callie who got beat up in the Chula Vista Detention Facility after getting kicked out of her abusive foster home where her younger brother Jude still is. Due to a very intense confrontation, Stef and Lena decide to take in both Callie and Jude, and have all the kids attend the charter school as well as all live together.

This show comes in the wake of Modern Family and The New Normal, which were two headline-grabbing shows about gay parents raising children, but both those shows were comedies and played more on stereotypes. This show is more in line with Brothers & Sisters, which in its final seasons incorporated a story of gay parents adopting a Hispanic child and raising her, but it didn't play to stereotypes. It was a drama and dealt with real issues seriously.

Yet, in all the other examples recently, the gay parents have been two males. Rarely have we seen two females. A great independent movie Tru Loved (2008) was one of the first instances that I saw of lesbian mothers. The Oscar-nominated film The Kids Are All Right (2010) is probably the best or most popular example, and there are echoes of Lisa Cholodenko in this series created by Bradley Bredeweg and Peter Paige. Despite not being gay women, or Hispanic, or Black, Bredeweg and Paige convey a genuineness and authenticity to each of the niches that you don't get in most TV shows.

This show airs on ABC Family, which had two series that tread similar ground as The Fosters. The cable network made a name for itself when it premiered the show Kyle XY. That series was about an orphan boy who gets adopted into an already established family and has to awkwardly learn the ropes. In the same year, the cable network also had Lincoln Heights, which was about a black family. The parent of which is a police officer, and whose family has to deal with social issues relating to minorities. The Fosters has elements of both Kyle XY and Lincoln Heights.

The show is good when it's dealing with adoption, especially interracial adoptions, as well as the myriad of social issues at the show's disposal. Because the show brings together characters from various and different backgrounds, in a somewhat believable way, it's believable that each character could bring their own baggage. All of the children have to deal with homophobia, but there's also issues of divorce, custody, visitation, abuse, racism, crime and etc.

The show isn't good when it's dealing with the typical, teenage soap opera and melodrama. The show seems to be teasing the actuality that Brandon, played by David Lambert, and Callie, played by Maia Mitchell, have feelings for each other. They're not related by blood, but technically they're brother and sister. The possibility that they would hook up would only be slightly incestuous.

Brothers & Sisters did this already, but it did it more boldly, and got it out of the way very quickly. This show feels like it might draw out Brandon and Callie addressing their feelings for a while in an ode to Dawson's Creek, but I wish the show wouldn't.

Considering Callie's background, having her get paired up with a boy makes her less interesting almost immediately. Having her be more involved with her brother would be better. In episode 3, Jude has an important test he has to take, which would practically determine if he can stay or not, and the show doesn't have Callie say one word about it. The show rather puts Callie at odds with Mariana and Brandon's girlfriend Talya.

In episode 3, titled "Hostile Acts," the show gave a great scene between Brandon and Mike, which resolves a question that Mike poses to his son. It was a great emotional moment that was well acted by both Lambert and Nucci.

Between the twins, Jesus, played by Jake T. Austin, is more concerned with a possible romance, which is less interesting than what Mariana is more concerned. Mariana, played by Cierra Ramirez, is more concerned with her biological mother but has to face the disappointment of that relationship not being what she wanted.

As far as Jude, played by Hayden Byerly, it's teased that he might be a cross-dresser or maybe transgendered, but, by episode 4, it's never brought up again. Because Jude is so young, it might be better to delay and deal with it later, but I found it odd that no one ever mentions it.

One of the best moments is when Lena and her mom, played by Lorraine Toussaint, have a debate about being biracial and how that affects a person, making them feel like they're caught between two worlds, which is applicable to so many people and the characters here. Because of which, I think this might be the best family drama ABC Family has put out in the past decade.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Mondays 9PM on ABC Family.

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