Welcome to the Family promises a clash of cultures in its description and an exploration of what happens when bonds are forced and two families must blend because of circumstances. A white family and a latino family are forced to bond and blend in this sitcom. Indeed, it is part of the premise; however, such an emphasis on culture clashes seems forced on the part of NBC. The first episode introduces conflicts, differences, etc., but the conflicts and differences stem from pretty much everything other than a clash of two cultures.
Welcome to the Family's not imaginative or daring with its premise. Mike Sikowitz is not trying to do anything other than make the audience laugh. Conflict can lead to laugher, and the "Pilot" packs in the conflicts in 20+ minutes. The tone of the series is sort of odd for what NBC marketed to audiences. Yeah, it has the feel of a family sitcom. The jokes are easy, the characters likable, the situations identifable and relatable, and so on. The teenagers seem less like teenagers and more like what 30-something year old professional TV writers think teenagers are like. Ella Rae Peck's Molly, the pretty blonde and mother-to-be, seems as thought out a character as a rock. Molly's the typical TV teenage blond girl: ditzy, irresponsible, blandly rebellious. Molly's parents are less concerned with her than they are with her leaving so they can have sex whenever they want.
Meanwhile, Junior, Molly's boyfriend and father of the baby, comes from the complete opposite family. His father's a constant in his life, helping him prepare for college life at Stanford, and in-tune with his life. Junior's parents know about Molly. Molly's parents do not know about Junior. Junior even has a little brother who's smarter beyond his years. They are the nuclear family. Molly's family is the nuclear family with an edge or a twist, or as much as an edge or twist you'll get on network television.
The initial clashes in Welcome to the Family are low-stakes. Molly confesses she has a boyfriend and is pregnant. Her father, Dan (Mike O'Malley), and mother, Caroline (Mary McMormack) react tamely to the news; it's like they found out Molly ate the rest of the cheesecake instead of teenage pregancy. The "Pilot" moves at a frantic pace, and the characters are more less characters than cliches. Dr. Dan Yoder is a man's man. Miguel's a hard-working family man who challenges faux-manly men. The women don't stand out. The teenagers aren't funny or distinctive. The central conflict between the father figure showcases the stereotypical male stubborness, while the women sit by and acquiesce to make things easiest. The gender roles are traditional through one episode.
For comparison's sake, Welcome to the Family is like if ABC wanted to spin-off the Cory/Topanga marriage storyline in early season six, of Boy Meets World, into its own series. It's somewhat refreshing to watch a pregnancy storyline that's not plunged into misery and PSAs on teenage abortion. Welcome to the Family is seemingly set in an alternate universe where a baby's not as problematic as sharing a family with someone who didn't want to give you a free boxing lesson. I don't have any interest in ever watching another episode of this show again; but if I did, the last scene would've killed my interest in continuing to follow the story.
Mike O'Malley's a fun performer to watch. The material's weak for his character, but O'Malley has charisma. He was amazing hosting GUTS and Global GUTS. Ricardo Chivara's the second most important character on the show. Chivara and O'Malley will play off each other for five episodes, at least, until they become best friends and commiserate over teenagers making stupid decisions. No other performer rises above the weak material. The younger actors seem over-eager and desperate to be likable and relatable, probably because the suits gave notes for the teenagers to be likable and relatable.
One of the certainties of life, though, is the the fickle nature of "Pilots." TV shows take time to figure out. Writers need to learn about their actors abilities and write to that. Very little works in the first episode of this show, but it's just episode one, and that means it could very well get to a point where the cast, the writing, the direction, etc., gel. I'm pessimistic about it, but that's just me.