The Real O’Neals, which premieres in March 2016 on ABC looks to be quirky fun and may actually ruffle a few feathers with more “traditionalist” viewers. The series looks at the O’Neals, a family run by matriarch and super church participant Eileen O’Neal (Martha Plimpton). The O’Neals are an immaculately turned out family, who do everything that mother tells them to.
Everything goes swimmingly until middle son Kenny (Noah Galvin) decides to “come out” and reveal to his family, and girl friend, that he is gay. His act of truth uncovers the facade that has represented the upstanding Irish Catholic family for years. Kenny’s revelation causes cracks to appear and the “real” O’Neals are spotlighted in the community, the church and in front of themselves.
One can be forgiven for thinking that this new comedy is a thinly disguised “After School Special” or some quasi religious promotional. These misconceptions will disappear in literally just under two minutes after the pilot begins. The opening scene takes place in an eatery.
In the restaurant other families are misbehaving, the O’Neals however are all acting properly with mother Eileen ruling the ship and ordering for everyone. Kenny, who provides the voice-over narration, tells of “mom’s” adage that each family member should act as though “Jesus” is there watching them.
The first gag of the pilot appears; Jesus is sitting next to Kenny:
Kenny: “What you going to get?”
Jesus: “I’ll let your mom order for me too, but then change it to whatever I want…”
All of the jokes in the first two episodes of The Real O’Neals are of this calibre, surprising, irreverent and oh so funny. There is at least one other “surprise” guest on the second episode, but that will remain a secret for now to keep ABC from sending goons round to punish us for spoilers…
Of course the main thing going for the new series, besides a deliciously wicked sense of humor, is that once that “gay” dam is opened, all sorts of things come tumbling out. The “good” family are replaced with the “real” one, full of dysfunctional truths that were hidden until Kenny dared to tell his reality.
There are funny moments throughout the show’s first two episodes. Eileen urging Kenny to try girlfriend Mimi’s (played brilliantly by Hannah Marks) “papaya” and there is yet another, similar to Uncle Buck, reference to Selena Gomez…
The Real O’Neals proves that it only takes one crack (in this instance it is Kenny’s revelation that he is gay) to bring down the entire false front that makes up the family O’Neals squeaky clean image. The show’s comedy comes from this underlying truth and Eileen’s handling of it.
Mom reacts with Lists, plans and, in Kenny’s circumstance, outright denial. Plimpton handles her beleaguered church mom well and her comedic skills are perfect for the role of former “Supermom.” Newcomer Galvin works well in the role of middle son Kenny who finally realizes that he needs to tell his family the truth about his sexuality.
The show is funny; it delivers chuckles, guffaws and giggles on a regular basis with no sign of a laugh track or studio audience anywhere. The writing is clever, witty and irreverent. The subject matter may offend a few, after all there are those who do not find poking fun at these everyday realities funny at all.
However, for those with a healthy sense of humor and an appreciation for great comic writing, this show will be a delight. There are some things that annoy, the daughter played by Bebe Wood has been made to resemble Abigail Breslin, which is a distraction. That said, the actress does well in her role as the youngest O’Neal.
Once Kenny comes out, each family member discloses a truth that shocks Eileen to the core. Anorexia, felonious intent and a man who cannot plan to save his life all through “mom” for a loop. Kenny’s issue will, obviously, be a long running comedic point, to a degree, but it appears that the family’s “real” lives will provide the laughs for the series as well.
The Real O’Neals will premiere March 2016 on ABC. Tune in and prepare to laugh and to enjoy the lives of Kenny and his family. This show could almost be the “Malcolm in the Middle” for a new generation just without the “genius” quotient or the low income level. Good fun.