I’m a big believer that television should reflect diversity, multiculturalism and progressive attitudes toward gender. But I’m also willing to admit it’s unrealistic — and unnecessary — to expect every show to conform to that standard.
Like when one of my colleagues asked the creator of the new ABC sitcom “The Kids Are Alright” why he didn't add some girls to the cast. This question came after Tim Doyle told us that the show “is inspired by my childhood.”
“The most contrived part of the pilot is that the family [has] eight boys, which is also extremely accurate,” he said. “I grew up in a family of eight boys, no girls.”
Write what you know works in sitcoms.
Would someone ask if the Huangs on “Fresh Off the Boat” should add a girl? If the Johnsons on “Black-ish” should add a Latino child? If “The Goldbergs” should add a Christian child?
Of course not. And, not coincidentally, those three shows are also based on real families.
No, they’re not documentaries. Yes, changes were made. “Goldbergs” creator Adam F. Goldberg had two brothers and no sisters; the fictional Adam (Sean Giambrone) has a brother and a sister — the real Eric became Erica (Hayley Orrantia). Because that show was not about a house full of boys.
And the premise of “The Kids Are Alright” is about the singular dynamic of harried parents (Mary McCormack and Michael Cudlitz) raising eight boys in 1972 Los Angeles. It would be a very different show if it included a daughter or two.
There are certainly similarities, but “The Kids Are Alright” is not “The Wonder Years.” It’s not an idyllic look back, it’s about a rough-and-tumble competition among the eight boys. (Well, among seven — the eighth is an infant.)
“You’re always left wanting a little more from your parents than you’re ever going to be able to get,” Doyle said, “not to mention fighting over that extra pork chop or whatever.”
He would know.
“The Kids Are Alright” is about boys, but it’s not just about boys. The mom, Peggy, is the strongest character on the show. And Catholic guilt plays a big part. In Tuesday’s second episode (7:30 p.m., ABC/Ch. 4), Timmy copies someone else’s poem and wins a prize for it — and he knows his mother knows what he’s done.
“The big win for Mom here is getting you to confess,” says brother No. 4, Joey (Christopher Paul Richards). “Then she gets to punish you, pretend you learned a valuable lesson and feel like she’s a really good mother — the Catholic guilt trifecta."
“Just like Jesus taught us,” adds brother No. 6, William (Andy Walken).
This is a very promising comedy. Not every TV couple has to have both sons and daughters.