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The Kids Are Alright - Pilot - Review - Shoot For the Stars

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ABC’s newest comedy about a unique yet relatable family comes out of the gate strong. Is it saddled with a slightly tedious title and an opening sequence too much like The Goldbergs? Yes it has both those flaws. However, other than a truly lame line of dialogue and a somewhat tasteless joke, there are no other jarring weaknesses. It’s the 1970s, an era I am very familiar with. And by that I mean I have seen every episode of CHiPs, The Bionic Woman, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Wonder Woman. So I know everything naturally. Thankfully, this show isn’t about to lean on nostalgia, choosing to showcase its characters in the pilot instead. There are several of them, and I love that the pilot manages to give them all something memorable to do.

The Clearys are mighty in number. No less than eight boys! The self-proclaimed middle child Timmy is our narrator, and the casting of Jack Gore is perfect. He’s weary of being lost in the kerfuffle and overshadowed by his older siblings’ drama and achievements.
And musical theater seems like a promising outlet. Unfortunately, an audition into a nearby children’s theater costs money, and as Mrs. Peggy Cleary (Mary McCormack) says, they don’t have the wherewithal for any of the boys to be special. (Special also includes having asthma or requiring store-bought ketchup). The pride and joy of the Cleary blood is Lawrence (Sam Straley) the luscious-locked oldest son who is destined for the priesthood. Until he announces that he’s quitting seminary. This news is most unwelcome to second son Eddie (Caleb Foote) who fears he will be asked to take up the collar next. But eavesdropping tattletale Frank (Sawyer Barth) spills Eddie’s dirty laundry. A secret girlfriend! Eddie brings said girlfriend Wendy to meet his mom, who has some very cutting things to say about the longevity of their relationship. Thankfully, Wendy knows the way to a mom’s heart. For now, she’s on the nice list. The last of the older boys is Joey (Christopher Richards), the smooth talker. He borrows his bros money without asking and utilizes his treehouse to spy on the lady next door. Joey does give Timmy some helpful advice on how to raise money for his audition though. Then there’s William (Andy Walken), a bookworm and sci-fi fan (boy is he going to be thrilled in a few years when Star Wars comes out). Pat (Santino Barnard) is the second youngest, with sophisticated taste buds and adorable glasses. The youngest is Baby Cleary.
Favorite scenes of the pilot were Mike (Michael Cudlitz)’s heart to heart with Lawrence out in the desert. Cudlitz is really great in this pilot, and he shines here. Mike is honest with Lawrence about how he wanted his son to get a job that was more respected. Mike, a World War II veteran, works in a weapon manufacturing facility. His own father spent his life working in a coal mine. He speaks to Lawrence about how he only plays a tiny role in making other people’s visions a reality and how that stings sometimes. “Some version of a college degree” is all he asks Lawrence to consider. And when Mike describes the one part that he made on the rocket, it’s unexpectedly poignant. His job might be mundane, but he takes pride in it.

The next great scene was Timmy’s audition. He’s struck nearly mute the first time he gets up on stage. Unbeknownst to him, his mom (and Frank) have just come in the back. She gets that pitying mom face on, the ones moms get before they rush over with a Band-Aid. But then the piano starts. William got up on stage to help his big brother. Timmy’s voice gets stronger, and joy takes over. Peggy leaves, declaring to Frank that “he’s excellent”. Timmy gets understudy, and the episode ends with Peggy making him a costume. There’s something about family supporting each other’s dreams that gets to me every single time.

Fringe Knots:

Frank sleeping under the table is something that I also did as a kid when my large family visited friends or family with smaller houses. It’s considered the best part of the floor to sleep on, because people are less likely to sleep on you.
Also, Frank’s commitment to blabbing is admirable.
("I'm sorry. I didn't hear about the priest part. I only heard about Eddie's secret girlfriend.")

Every scene with the boys crushing each other to get food is spot on!

Wendy literally looks like a Madame Alexander Wendy doll!

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