'Welcome to the Family' Review: Mike O'Malley Brings Plenty of Heart and Soul
'Welcome to the Family' Review: Mike O'Malley Brings Plenty of Heart and Soul
Jeff Dodge
Jeff Dodge
Staff Writer, BuddyTV
What would you do if your teenage daughter came to you and said she was pregnant? You'd probably flip out, right? But what if the bad news continued when you met the boyfriend's parents and you didn't like them? Which is worse, the pregnant teen or the other family? For the Yoders on Welcome to the Family, both are terrible, but it's the latter that creates the best opportunities for some laughs.

Mike O'Malley stars as Dan Yoder, an orthodontist and father to Molly; with his daughter set to move out after graduation, he's planning on bringing the focus back on him and his wife again -- he's going to get back in shape, turn her room into a gym and have lots of sex.

That plan is completely derailed when Molly informs her parents she not only has a boyfriend (Junior Hernandez, played by Joey Haro) she's never told them about, but she's also pregnant. This allows for the two families to come together and have the parents meet each other for the first time. Unfortunately, things don't get off on the right footing because Dan and Junior's father, Miguel (Ricardo Chavira), butt heads in a big way.

This could easily feel tired and worn out and a been there/done that type of storyline. But when you put Mike O'Malley and Ricardo Chavira together to act opposite each other, it creates fantastic TV moments. They're both such strong actors that it's effortless on both ends. O'Malley brings the likability factor we loved so much with Kurt's dad on Glee, and Chavira has this likable macho-ness that I remember so well from Desperate Housewives.

Even though the premise of the show is grounded in a teenage daughter getting pregnant, it's these two fathers who are really at the center. Based on the pilot, I can already tell pretty much every episode will revolve around their disagreements. I don't necessarily mind that, as long as there are plenty of opportunities for them to find areas of common interest or find something they can agree on at least once in a while.

I keep focusing on the fathers, but what about the mothers? There's not much to say about them, only because they are the normal ones in the group. Caroline Yoder (Mary McCormack) is a good fit for Dan; they have great chemistry together and I can see them as husband and wife. And Lisette Hernandez (Justina Machado) is a very warm and inviting person. They're all about putting things in perspective and trying to tamper the fires that spark between their husbands.

But let's get back to the two parents-to-be: Haro plays Junior in a fantastic manner. He's the smartest kid around and very put-together; to top it all off, he's Standford-bound. Haro's got this perfect face and behavior in this role where every parent would go, he's the kind of guy I would love my daughter to settle down with. Yeah, there's that whole getting-his-girlfriend-pregnant thing, but who cares? He's perfect!

Then there's the mother-to-be herself. I know O'Malley is the lead on this show, but to me, Ella Rae Peck is beyond brilliant as Molly Yoder. This type of character (ditzy and not the brightest person around) is not new, but it's the approach Peck takes that makes it unique in my eyes -- it's in her voice. I don't quite know how to explain it. I'm not sure if that's how Peck normally speaks,  but either way, I find myself laughing over things she says because of how she says it.

To add on to that, Molly is also a "pioneer in feminism," which I think is beyond hilarious. Not because she thinks of herself as a feminist -- that's fantastic she sees herself that way -- but because she stumbles her way through this side of her, like not knowing certain words when she points out things that are sexist. She doesn't care, she just plows on ahead to make a statement for the advancement of female empowerment everywhere. I hope she keeps this up in future episodes because this is another aspect of her that I really enjoy.

NBC now has three new shows on Thursday nights: Welcome to the Family, followed by Sean Saves the World and The Michael. J. Fox Show. The success of Welcome to the Family hinges on its lead-in, Parks and Recreation. CBS's new show The Millers has the benefit of airing after The Big Bang Theory, so it's hard to tell right now how this show will fare in the ratings.

It's light entertainment that has plenty of heart and personality to go around -- this is reason enough to tune in, combined with a strong cast who don't overshadow each other, but rather allow everyone to stake claim in a piece of this show they can work with and grow in. And a game-changing twist at the end of the pilot creates plenty of opportunities for new dynamics and storylines that will expand the focus beyond just Molly being pregnant and the clashing fathers.

I would like to see Welcome to the Family do well because it has people you can root for; and we all want Mike O'Malley to succeed, am I right? If NBC gives it enough time and the breathing room to grow, I hope we can see this new comedy cement itself with a reliable footing on Thursday nights.

Will you be tuning in to Welcome to the Family? Are you excited that Mike O'Malley is the lead on this new NBC comedy?

Welcome to the Family premieres tonight at 8:30pm on NBC.

Want to add Welcome to the Family to your very own watch-list? Download BuddyTV Guide for free for your phone.

(Image courtesy of NBC)