As the premiere date approaches for The Real O’Neals; March 2, 2016, previews of the series continue to be a comedy of terrors. At least from the viewpoint of uptight uber religious “mother” O’Neal, aka Eileen O’Neal (played with comic brilliance by Martha Plimpton) whose perfect family loses its facade and becomes real.
It is incredibly difficult to not love a show where Jesus keeps turning up, not as a regular but just enough to be, say, a standing cameo. In The Real Lent, He shows up to complain that Eileen is making him work on St Paddy’s day.
While Jesus was planning to hang with Vishnu and Buddha, Kenny and the rest of clan O’Neal are getting out the St Patrick’s Day float and Mom decrees that the rainbow be taken from it. Kenny says that this is a bit hurtful but he will never turn down a trip to the fabric store.
After picking up re-decorating supplies, Eileen and Kenny are approached by a young man asking for a petition against child labor to be signed. The parking lot teen is Kenny’s first bona fide gay crush and Mom is not pleased.
As with the pilot, Eileen attempts to rule her family with a special emphasis on religion. Demanding that the holiday not be about celebrating St Patrick but about Lent, she tells her brood what they will be giving up.
Jimmy must give up long showers (“we all know what you;re really doing…”), Kenny; being secretive, Shannon her phone, and husband Pat must give up calling Eileen from the basement for “every little thing.”
The family get their own back when Kenny demands that Eileen give up being judgmental for Lent.
As the show progresses, Kenny goes on his first date, with a boy, Shannon grows up, Jimmy gets lots of splinters and Eileen finds out that she has managed to spoil St Patrick’s Day.
With The Real F Word, Kenny suffers through returning to a Catholic school after “coming out.” Jimmy swears retribution upon anyone who picks on his brother and in Kenny’s nervous paranoia, he uses the “F” word and almost gets suspended.
Amidst a school election Kenny learns that Jimmy really will punish anyone who picks on his brother. Kenny also learns that being openly gay gets him special dispensation from the school principal.
There is a lot to love about The Real O’Neals. Jesus popping up as guest star, on a semi-regular basis and a family that has to live with a reality that did not exist before one of the children came out of the closet makes this one different. Kenny’s act of declaring his true sexuality starts an avalanche of change in the O’Neal family and mother Eileen must struggle to cope, albeit in a comedic way.
The series is not all about Kenny. Granted Noah Galvin totally rocks as the middle kid who has let his true colors shine in spite of his moralistic mother. In The Real Lent, his fantasy “perfect date;” with the parking lot guy, Ricky; who looks like a young Zac Efron with blonde hair (played with beach-boy perfection by Garrett Clayton) is brilliant.
Despite Galvin being the main plot device that this comedy revolves around, each character brings their own “normal” neurosis and issues to the show making this an true ensemble piece. Martha Plimpton manages to walk that fine line between annoying and amusing as Eileen, the mother whose perfect family has crumbled right before her eyes.
Jay R. Ferguson as the dad Pat, Bebe Wood as Shannon, Matt Shively as Jimmy all work together to present the family ideal gone to hell in a hand basket. In reality, the O’Neals are the “real” American family, each member having their own, previously unknown, issues.
Even Eileen had a secret.
What makes this comedy work so brilliantly is the fact that once Kenny comes out, not one family member is awkward about it, except for Eileen of course. In The Real F Word even the school is pretty much accepting of it, apart from the principal who over-compensates…
In fact, it is Kenny’s struggles with the reality of being gay that helps to make this such a splendid comedy.
Keep an eye out for this one on March 2. A delightfully different comedy where not only Jesus but Jimmy Kimmel turn up to help move the story along. The writing is tight, funny, irreverent and addictive. Do not miss this one, it is worth the visit.