When it was originally on: 2013-2018
Original network: ABC Family
Where you can stream it now: Netflix
Had I seen it before: One of my college roommates was into it, so I’ve seen some episodes here and there. They were hard to follow since I didn’t have all the background info, but it seemed like an interesting enough premise.
What IMDb says: Teenager Callie Jacob is placed in a foster home with a lesbian couple and their blend of biological, adoptive, and foster children.
Why I picked it: I’ve seen this cited as a quality family drama. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m always curious to know if the stigma of being an ABC Family/Freeform show prevented it from being the hit it maybe deserved it to be, or if ABC Family/Freeform simply greenlights subpar content.
I also think the premise of a foster home has so much dramatic potential and it’s a wonder that there aren’t more tv shows that try to take advantage of it. It’s a family, but yet everyone can still have different backgrounds and life challenge they’re struggling with. There’s uncertainty that wouldn’t exist in a “normal” family, and it’s more believable for the various children to be struggling with high stakes drama that don’t plague “normal” children.
What I liked: This one was pretty damn fantastic, and I’m eager to watch more. I think where this one best succeeded is in how it gives all of our lead characters major problems to deal with, and everyone gets a chance to make a brave, noble choice.
- Lena chooses to take Callie in even though they don’t even have an extra room for her and she knows it might causes problems with her girlfriend/life partner.
- Callie chooses to risk her own safety in order to save her brother from a violent foster home.
- Brandon spends most of the episode preparing for some piano contest where there’s a $5,000 scholarship on the line, but on the night of he sacrifices this opportunity to assist Callie.
- Twins Mariana and Jesus are offered the chance to meet their birth mother, and both take different stances on whether it’s a good time. Mariana chooses to try and raise money for her birth mom by selling her brother’s pills, and while Jesus catches her, he chooses NOT to turn her into their moms.
- Stef chooses to take Callie and her brother in even when Lena doesn’t force her to.
I also think it’s intriguing how they decided to have five different kids in this family, but yet each one is on a different levels of relation to our matriarchs. Jesus and Mariana are twins, but are adopted. Callie and Jude are siblings, but fosters who in theory are only here temporary (okay, sure.) Then there’s Brandon, the only kid to be a biological child of one of the mothers, but also the only one who doesn’t have a biological sibling in the house with him. I can see how this set up would cause different levels of insecurity in the kids, and different levels of loyalty to different siblings, and I LOVE IT.
Can I also say that Lena and Stef are just GOALS. I love how the pilot lets them have conflicts, but also shows they know how to manage those conflicts in a mature way. They communicate openly. They know how to admit when they were wrong. It’s giving me Coach and Tammy Taylor energy. Television needs conflict, and the show simultaneously tells us that there will be conflicts between these two, but also that their relationship is solid AF and those conflicts will never be strong enough to tear them apart.
While I don’t usually like cop-centric narratives, I actually love the decision to make Stef a cop here. It raises the stakes on all the different things the teenagers are up to. When Mariana is stealing and selling her brothers prescription pills, there’s an added layer of “please don’t tell Mom” because if Mom knows, it could mean actual legal ramifications and not just “oh, you’re grounded.” I’m sure at some point they’ll also give Stef an episode where she DOES catch one of the kids doing something shady, and has an existential crisis over whether or not to handle it as a mother or as a cop.
It’s a pilot that does a fantastic job of giving six different characters meaningful character development, while also setting up so many different opportunities for future conflict. What will happen with Mariana and Jesus’s birth mom? What about the fact that Stef’s police partner is now her ex-husband/baby daddy? Then there’s Callie and Jude moving in, what’s up with that? Do Brandon and Callie’s hormones like each other? There’s some subtext suggesting they might but now they’re going to be living as brother and sister for at least a little while. Oh, and Brandon already has another girlfriend which complicates matters a bit. I have so many questions, but more importantly, I’m invested enough in these characters that I actually care about the answers.
Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Yes! While I kind of expected this to fall into more of a trashy guilty pleasure show (as ABC Family shows often do) but it’s actually a high quality drama and I hope the other episodes can live up to the pilot’s standard.