TV Review - The Family (2016)

Created by Jenna Bans, this show centers on a group of people, a wealthy white family in this regard, dealing with a crime where the narrative is built on flashbacks and indeed half the show is essentially in the past. It's the structure of so many series on ABC going back to Lost. The recent examples are How to Get Away with Murder and Quantico. Those shows have way more action and thrills. This show doesn't and utilizing this structure does little to help or enliven it. If anything, the flashbacks probably drag the show.

The problem Bans has is that she doesn't seem to know what her show is or should be. Maybe she wants the show to be many or multiple things. If so, I'm not sure it's working. The crime in question is a child abduction where the missing child is gone for nearly a decade but eventually the child is returned.

Joan Allen stars as Claire Warren, a politician on the city council who becomes mayor. She's married and has three children. Her youngest child is kidnapped and stays missing for 10 years until he wanders into a police station. Allen co-starred in the recent, Oscar-winning film Room, which is very similar to this TV show. Her character is almost the same in both, and if this show was exactly the same as the second-half of Room, it would be a vastly better program.

If this series was exactly the same as The Deep End of the Ocean (1999), it would be a vastly better program. That 1999 film starring Michelle Pfeiffer was also about a kidnapped child who returns to his family where the family and boy have trouble adjusting. What makes those films great is how they remain in the present and focus on the dynamics of the family. This series is less focused.

It also wants to be a police procedural, but a cop show with a weird wrinkle. What's revealed is that 10 years ago, the police arrested the wrong man for the kidnapping and possible murder of the child. When the missing child shows up not dead and claiming to have been taken by someone else, the wrong man is released from prison. Therefore, the police then have to track down the actual kidnapper.

Margot Bingham (Boardwalk Empire) co-stars as Nina Meyer, the detective who worked on the case 10 years ago and who is now trying to find the actual kidnapper. She feels guilty about getting things wrong a decade prior. She also has mixed feelings about having an affair with Claire's husband, John, played by Rupert Graves.

Andrew McCarthy (Mannequin and Weekend at Bernie's) plays Hank Asher, the wrong man who was arrested 10 years ago. The series follows him as he adjusts to life after prison. It's not as if he were totally innocent. Hank was a convicted, sex offender before being accused of child kidnapping and murder, so for a spell the series feels like Little Children (2006). His presence in the narrative at present seems super superfluous.

Liam James (2012 and The Way Way Back) also co-stars as Adam Warren, the aforementioned, kidnapped child, missing for a decade who has now returned a mentally-disturbed teenager and has to re-adjust to life in this suburban family.

Zach Gilford (Friday Night Lights and The Mob Doctor) plays Danny Warren, the eldest brother to Adam who in the wake of the kidnapping became an alcoholic. He's trying to sober up with the return of Adam, but he's the only one in the family who suspects that Adam isn't really his brother but maybe a boy pretending to be Adam.

If anyone has seen the documentary The Imposter (2012), then one will find Danny's suspicions warranted. The family in that 2012 film didn't have access to DNA technology. Bans dances around the fact that this family does have access to DNA technology. Yet, Bans wants to keep or maintain the mystery and the possibility that Danny's suspicions are warranted. As such, dancing around DNA only makes the show stupid or overly soap opera-ish.

The show oddly teases the real kidnapper, the person who allegedly held Adam hostage in a dungeon. He's referred to as "Pock-Marked Man." It's obvious he's going to be caught, so it becomes a waste of time to follow him. This Pock-Marked Man is played by Michael Esper who first impressed me in the final season of Nurse Jackie and impressed me further in the concurrent series Shades of Blue. Hopefully, this show makes good use of him.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-PG-LS.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Sundays at 9PM on ABC.


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