The Real O'Neals Review: ABC's Wacky Catholic Comedy Is Close to Divine

TV Review Grade B+There’s something sweetly old-fashioned about the premise of ABC’s latest family comedy, The Real O’Neals, in which the an image-obsessed Catholic mom desperately attempts to hide her family’s foibles — and her teenage son’s recent coming out — from public scrutiny.

But with quick and clever references to Pretty Little Liars, Game of Thrones, Mumford and Sons and Jimmy Kimmel (just to name a few), the show also manages to be completely of the moment — and damn funny, too.

It’s that nifty juxtaposition — how many shows would attempt to feature the Virgin Mary and a shirtless cologne model in the same scene? — along with the reliable brilliance of Martha Plimpton and a hilarious, star-making turn from newcomer Noah Galvin that makes The Real O’Neals a worthy addition to ABC’s growing list of well-liked comedies with delightfully specific points of view (i.e., black-ish, The Goldbergs, Fresh Off the Boat).

The show’s pilot (airing Wednesday, March 2 at 8:30/7:30c, followed by a second installment at 9:30 — before settling into a regular Tuesday timeslot) kicks off with the family sprinting and screaming from some unseen catastrophe, a riotous moment that establishes both the tone and the pace of everything we saw in three of the episodes ABC made available to the press.

JAY R. FERGUSON, MARTHA PLIMPTONPlimpton makes brusque, conservative matriarch Eileen feel vividly real within minutes — and she’s helped tremendously by a script (by Don’t Trust the B—- and Galavant‘s Casey Johnson and David Windsor) that gives her great zingers like her horrified response to what she erroneously thinks is son Kenny’s first sexual experience: “Father Phil was here — in his collar!”

What she learns by the end of the pilot, though, is that Kenny is actually gay, her eldest boy Jimmy is anorexic and her daughter Shannon (The New Normal‘s scene-stealing Bebe Wood) has a cracked moral compass. The kids are in for a surprise, too, however, as Eileen and husband Pat (Jay R. Ferguson) are planning to get divorced (even if they want to keep it a secret from their entire community).

Ultimately, though, this is Kenny’s story — the show is loosely based on the life of gay journalist Dan Savage — and luckily for The Real O’Neals, Galvin adroitly juggles every ball that’s thrown his way. There are fantasy conversations with Jesus Christ and a disapproving Jimmy Kimmel (“Grrrl, nuh-uh,” the late-night host clucks, when Kenny considers not coming out to his girlfriend). There’s an aborted sex scene in which Kenny briefly mistakes the aforementioned girlfriend for Orlando Bloom. There are even tender moments of understanding between Kenny and his family.

This isn’t to suggest you’re in for a thick layer of sap. Eileen might publicly defend Shannon’s Catholic school science-fair project that disproves God’s existence, after all, but the kid is still grounded ’til she repents — and believes. In other words, while The Real O’Neals may be soft and gooey at its center, but it’s the hard, tart outer shell that gives it its unique flavor.

The TVLine Bottom Line: With Plimpton and Galvin serving up some of the best mother-son hilarity since Lucille and Buster Bluth, we’re lighting a candle that The Real O’Neals doesn’t wind up in ratings purgatory.


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  1. Kyle says:

    Can anyone explain why shows premiere on one time slot, then move to another for their duration? This HAS to hurt the ratings since you see a show on a Wednesday, then the next week, it’s on Tuesday? This can’t be good for regular viewership.

    In other news, I can’t wait for this show!

    • RC says:

      It’s to try to get a many people to try it as possible. More people are likely to see it on Wednesday, their biggest night for comedy, bookending their most successful sitcom (Modern Family), than if they just launched it on Tuesday. It’s what they did for Fresh Off the Boat last year, with this exact same scheduling, and it worked.

    • Linda says:

      Wedensday preview worked with Fresh Off The Boat, so..

  2. Grace says:

    Really liked this pilot. Glad to hear the show holds up in subsequent episodes!

  3. Mr. Tran K says:

    Don’t know if The Real O’Neals is destined to become a breakout comedy hit for ABC.

  4. Guy says:

    Martha Plimpton was far too charming and skilled at delivering perfect zingers in the underrated Raising Hope to not give another show with her a look. She has excellent comedic timing. Definitely checking this out.

  5. John Davis says:

    Sooooooo funny!

  6. Will says:

    The full trailer from last year’s network upfronts was very enjoyable. The short promos they’ve been airing for the last few weeks however make it look terrible, IMO. Had I not seen the full trailer last year I would think this looks atrocious. Whoever is in charge of their promos needs to resign with Paul Lee…

  7. lostom66 says:

    This show was awful, as a gay man I found it annoyingly Gay, they should have focused on the other children. Instead it was more like a ABC family channel afterschool special Mom Dad I am gay its so last year.

  8. Dwayne says:

    Just waiting for a hysterical edgy comedy mocking a Muslim family.

  9. Shawn cahill says:

    This is horrible,we try to show our kids the right way of life then here you go airing ( the o,neals) huh ? Get it off the air or abc will be shut down .you do understand right ? Oh don’t under see my power or over look it .that would be a mistake .thank you

  10. Guy Placer says:

    BEST new comedy on mainstream a TV.
    For me, just like Grimm, I actually look forward to watching the shows EVERY week, my roommate also.
    Will also buy the full sets of DVD’S when they come out.
    Back to The Oneals. It gets a 10 from me.