Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
This series doesn’t acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic. There are TV shows that have made that choice, even shows on the same network and shows where dealing with such a thing would be the most appropriate. Specifically, I’m thinking of ABC’s General Hospital. The other medical dramas on ABC have acknowledged COVID-19 though. When it comes to ABC’s comedies, because a couple of them take place in the past, it’s obvious why they don’t address the coronavirus, but there are two new comedies on the network, including this one, that have just decided to ignore the pandemic. Given that they are premiering in the spring of 2021, a year after the pandemic first hit and in the wake of a vaccine and things returning to some kind of normal, I suppose it’s forgivable. Yet, the premise here could have benefited from using the pandemic, which has created an economic shift in the United States unlike anything most people have ever seen.
The series is about three siblings, two men and one woman, who represent various levels on the economic scale. One sibling is rich. One is middle class. One is poor. However, from the way the episodes are structured, watching each of those siblings deal with their economic statuses individually doesn’t appear to be on the agenda.
Created by Michael Colton and John Aboud, each episode so far seems to encompass a get-together or some kind of event that brings the family or at least the three siblings to one spot. Yes, there’s comedy to be mined from the poor sibling hosting a dinner or something, as we watch the family cram into that sibling’s small home or apartment, but, as the first episode establishes, most events can and probably should be held at the rich sibling’s veritable mansion. Also, as the first episode establishes, while the poor and the middle-class siblings might not have as much material possessions as their rich sibling, any help they need, if they’re truly struggling, can come from the rich sibling. They can always get his help.
The first episode tries to present some kind of tension in that proposition, but whatever tension could have been is resolved rather quickly. With that tension gone, I’m not sure the premise has much more mileage. I suppose that a lot of it will no doubt be the poor or even middle-class siblings mocking the rich sibling for his extravagance, opulence or extreme privilege. But, again, there is no real tension because the less rich siblings have access to the rich sibling and can benefit from that extravagance, opulence or privilege any time and probably all the time. It’s possible that maybe the rich sibling could come to feel like he’s being used for his money, but the depiction of the less rich siblings doesn’t appear to be that of laziness or any lacking of work ethic. Even the spouses of the less rich siblings aren’t depicted that way.
My feeling is that the series would have had more urgency or some kind of drive if there was more tension, conflict or distance between the three characters. The fact of the matter is that the siblings all have the same loving parents. There is a joke about how the parents dote or show preference for the rich sibling, but that doesn’t seem to be played to any kind of seriousness. If perhaps the siblings were half-siblings or if they were instead cousins, then that might make it feel more compelling. Perhaps the siblings had stronger ideological differences, which the first episode suggests might be the case, but it’s never underlined as being an issue between any of them. I suppose the series will have to coast on some slight personality clashes and a lot of pratfalls for Topher Grace.
Topher Grace (Spider-Man 3 and That 70’s Show) stars as Tom Hayworth, the so-called middle-class sibling. He’s a novelist who’s hit a slump. His sales are down and he hasn’t been able to write a new book in a while. He’s working on a new one about his family, but he hasn’t told them about it. The show has him keeping it a secret from them, which it’s obviously waiting for a reveal of that secret that will probably lead to some drama or conflict that right now the show lacks.
Again, the conflict that exists such that it is lies in the personality clashes. This comes mainly in the significant others or spouses of the siblings. Tom’s wife is Marina, played by Karla Souza (How To Get Away With Murder). She’s a Mexican-American who comes across as very cynical and over a lot of stuff. She’s also very boozy. She seems always to have a drink in her hand, like a glass of wine or something, and she always seems to be overly nonchalant and unafraid in any social circumstance, trying to enjoy whatever she can, as the mother of their young children. Her personality clearly clashes with Tom who feels at times the opposite of nonchalant. Tom is mostly a neurotic mess, whereas Marina, a former lawyer, is more cool, calm and collected.
Caitlin McGee (Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet and Bluff City Law) co-stars as Sarah, the sister who is the middle child of the Hayworth siblings but she’s the lowest on the economic scale. Basically, she’s poor. Her poverty though isn’t because she didn’t have a stable career. She isn’t like some artist. She has or rather had a professional job. It’s just for some reason she’s laid off or business isn’t good. She’s married to Denise, a Black lesbian, played by Sasheer Zamata (Woke and Saturday Night Live). Denise is a professional woman as well. She’s a teacher. That’s clearly a career that doesn’t afford a lot of money or perhaps barely enough to live in a city like San Francisco. She clashes with Sarah over certain ideological disagreements. Both are progressive or left-wing in their views. Sarah though might be a little bit more ardent or stubborn in her views, whereas Denise is a bit more easygoing.
Jimmy Tatro (Modern Family and American Vandal) also co-stars as Connor, the youngest of the Hayworth siblings but the richest. He made a fortune in finance. Now, he lives in a huge house with all kinds of luxuries. He has a maid. He’s divorced but he has shared custody of his child. Most of the time, he’s just an idiot. He loves his brother and sister. He’s even willing to help them financially. His siblings can vary from being jealous of his wealth to frustrated at his occasional arrogance about it. No doubt through him, there will be some contrast as to how he raises his child and what values he instills as opposed to the values that his siblings instill in their children. A perpetual theme of materialism vs. idealism. The theme of exploitation vs. obligation has already come up and might be a recurrent theme as well.
The episodes though are rather hit-or-miss. The second episode was good but every one after has been rather lame. It’s not like Happy Endings (2011) where I was constantly laughing. This series feels like it has diminishing returns. Also, a show like Mixed-ish (2019) also deals with the same socioeconomic differences with a rich character in a family interacting with a middle-class and even poor member of the same family, but that show has the kind of tension and back-and-worth that makes the scenarios more interesting or compelling than this one.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Wednesdays at 8:30 PM on ABC.