‘The Fosters’ is a new kind of tv family — black, white, brown and gay
By Scott D. Pierce
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Jun 14 2014 01:01AM
Before "The Fosters" premiered a year ago, protests had already begun.
The American Family Association, through its subsidiary organization, One Million Moms, urged its members to threaten to boycott advertisers that aired commercials during the ABC Family drama about a lesbian couple raising a house full of children — some biological, some adopted, some fostered.
The AFA suggested telling advertisers that "The Fosters" is "attacking my faith, morals and values" and the series is " insulting to conservative viewers and traditional families."
Keep in mind that this attempt to torpedo the show came before anyone had seen an episode. It was launched seven months before "The Fosters" premiered.
"Respectfully, for me, a stamp of disapproval from One Million Moms is like a critic’s pick," said executive producer/co-creator Peter Paige. "You tell me not to watch it, and I’m sure to check it out.
"I’m incredibly grateful for their attention."
There’s no way to measure how much the American Family Association helped "The Fosters," but it certainly didn’t hurt. The series averaged about 1.7 million viewers in its first season — good enough for ABC Family to renew it for Season 2. And, according to the channel’s execs, no advertisers withdrew from the show because of its content.
"Any publicity is good publicity," said Teri Polo, who stars as police officer Stef Foster. Her spouse, Lena Adams (Sherri Saum), is the vice principal of the local high school. Their family includes Brandon (David Lambert), Stef’s son from a previous marriage; adopted twins Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) and Jesus (Jake T. Austin); their recently adopted son, Jude (Hayden Byerly); and his troubled sister, Callie (Maia Mitchell).
The fact that Stef and Lena are a same-sex couple is not the flashpoint of "The Fosters." In many ways, the show is a flashback to family dramas ranging from "Eight Is Enough" to "Beverly Hills, 90210."
There is plenty of drama, however. Callie has been in trouble with the law and is a frequent runaway. Brandon started running with the wrong crowd, got involved in illegal activities and — in the Season 1 finale — his promising future as a pianist appeared to have ended for good. And Lena is pregnant.
In many ways, "The Fosters" is very different from the kind of family drama we’ve seen on TV for decades. It’s not about an all-white family.
"From the very beginning, we knew we wanted to tell a story about a multicultural family," said co-creator/executive producer Bradley Bredeweg.
And they had the full support of ABC Family executives. Paige said the only conversation he and Bredeweg had with those executives "about casting in terms of race and stuff was whether Lena should be black or should be Latin."
"We knew we wanted to create this very 20th-century family. We knew we wanted to create a family that looked like the families we see in the world around us that aren’t on television yet."
Just not the kind of family the American Family Association wants to see on television.
The AFA insists that "The Fosters" is attempting to "redefine marriage and family by having two moms raise these children together" and "desensitize America and our children by promoting inappropriate behavior."
Apparently, the AFA is unaware that 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized gay marriage. In another dozen states, including Utah, judges have struck down bans on gay marriage and the cases are working their way through appeals.
The stars of the show say they’re frequently approached by fans expressing their support.
"I feel like a Beatle," Polo said. "I have people stop me in the grocery store and tell me that they were involved in the foster system and how grateful they are. I’ve had different members of the LGBT community come up and tell me how grateful they are that we are on the air."
"There’s a nun at my mom’s church who is 86 years old," Saum said, "who is always talking to my mom about the show. She’s so excited for the next episode."
And everyone involved with "The Fosters" would like to thank One Million Moms for their lack of support.
"I’m grateful," Polo said. "Thanks very much for creating this buzz around our show."