A closeted teenage boy comes out to his Catholic family — that’s the premise behind ABC’s new comedy The Real O’Neals. But the series is about much more than that, as you’ll find out in this review.
The Real O’Neals stars Noah Galvin as Kenny, a teenager who is in a relationship with a girl and realizes he needs to come out as gay, to live his life as he wants to live it and to stop hiding who he truly is. After being pressured by his girlfriend to have sex (which leads to one of the most hilarious scenes in the pilot that involves trying to flush condoms town the toilet) and being lectured on the dangers of having sex so young, Kenny eventually makes the brave move and comes out to his family — but his revelation is overheard by more than just his family.
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Even though Kenny’s personal journey is the main storyline of the series, he’s not the only one trying to sort through issues. Come to find out, every single member of his family has a secret of their own.
Kenny’ parents, Eileen and Pat, are having marital issues. The most humorous moments between them come from Eileen, played by Martha Plimpton. Whoever hired her for this role should get a raise; Plimpton is one of the best additions to the show, playing an overbearing and judgmental mother to three children. As Kenny’s voiceover tells us, “My mom always told us to behave as if Jesus was watching.” Anything that puts her family in a bad light, she takes it as a personal slight against her. Plimpton doesn’t hold back — but I wouldn’t want it any other way because she is able to deliver one-liners like no one else on the show. After watching the first four episodes, I can’t imagine any other actress playing Eileen.
As for the rest of the family, Kenny’s older brother, Jimmy, is a jock who’s, well, not too bright. On paper, that seems like a stereotypical role, but Matthew Shively has a lot of fun playing him, and the writing allows Jimmy to be better character than what he could’ve been. And Kenny’s sister, Shannon, can be very manipulative at times; to use one example, when raising money for charity, she guilts people into forking over more dough than they originally were willing to donate. And again, here’s yet another actor (The New Normal‘s Bebe Wood) who’s having fun in the role.
When everything is out in the open, that the O’Neal family is flawed, it’s the perfect setup for plenty of comedic storyline opportunities. From the condom scene mentioned earlier and stealing a canoe (lots of sinning, as you can tell) to Shannon presenting a project about multiple universes and preparing for a St. Patrick’s Day parade (Eileen can incorporate Jesus into any holiday, by the way), The Real O’Neals finds humor in just about anything.
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Galvin and Co. may be the on-camera stars (and there’s not a weak link in the group), but the writers are also the stars of the series. The writing is smart, sharp and witty — with plenty of laugh-out-loud one-liners. With the comedy also comes a dash of heart. With all of the upheaval going on in their family, Eileen is almost at a loss for what to do, but at the end of the day, they’re still family — and that is what makes for some heartwarming scenes that successfully showcase that bond.
There has been some controversy surrounding The Real O’Neals, specifically its portrayal of the Catholic Church and the fact that LGBT activist Dan Savage is working on this project. After watching the first four episodes, I can say there’s no reason for anybody to be upset, especially since they haven’t even seen the show yet. At its heart, this show is about family and how none of us are perfect and we shouldn’t conform in order to be considered “normal.” Whether or not you’re religious, there is plenty to love about The Real O’Neals.
The Real O’Neals is a great fit for the slate of comedies that ABC is airing right now, alongside such series as Fresh Off the Boat and Black-ish. Each of these shows is unique and showcases a point of view that none of the others can tell. The same goes for The Real O’Neals. If you’re looking for a comedy that’s not just funny, but also smart, witty and charming, then you won’t want to miss The Real O’Neals.
Check out a quick preview below:
Are you going to watch The Real O’Neals? Are you looking forward to seeing Martha Plimpton in this series? And are you worried that the supposed controversy surrounding the show will hurt its chances of success?
The Real O’Neals premieres Wednesday, March 2 at 8:30pm and 9:30pm on ABC, then moves to its regular day and time on Tuesday, March 8 at 8:30pm.
(Image and video courtesy of ABC)