ABC, which is already home to such TV families as the Goldbergs and the Conners, welcomed a new clan to its sitcom lineup with Tuesday’s debut of The Kids Are Alright.
Set in 1970s Southern California, Kids centers on the middle-class, Irish Catholic Cleary family, which boasts eight (!) children — all of them boys. Michael Cudlitz (The Walking Dead) and Mary McCormack (In Plain Sight) star as no-nonsense parents Mike and Peggy, who just barely have enough time, energy and money to keep a house full of eight sons running smoothly.
The sitcom’s events unfold through the eyes of middle child Timmy, played by precocious Billions actor Jack Gore. Feeling a bit forgotten since his oldest sibling, Lawrence, returned home from college for the summer, Timmy’s interest is piqued by the chance to audition for a children’s theater production of Man of La Mancha in Hollywood. But when his mom finds out about the idea, she immediately shuts it down, and Timmy is left to squirrel away some dough of his own in order to sneak out and hop a bus to Hollywood for the audition, little brother William in tow.
Timmy’s older brother, Frank — who establishes himself early on as a major tattle-tale — quickly rats Timmy out to their mom, and Peggy immediately makes the drive to Hollywood so she can intercept Timmy’s audition. But when she and Frank arrive at the theater, Timmy is already on stage, performing the Sesame Street classic “Sing.” He’s clearly nervous at first, singing quietly and tunelessly to the room. But when little bro William begins accompanying him on the piano, Timmy’s confidence builds, and he belts the rest of the song to a pleased casting director.
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“What about Timmy disobeying you?” Frank asks Peggy when she suggests they leave Timmy to finish his audition. “He’s excellent,” Peggy asserts — and when Timmy goes on to be cast as the Don Quixote understudy, Peggy even makes his costumes for him.
The premiere’s B-story focuses on the eldest Cleary child, Lawrence, who returns home from seminary with the announcement that he wants to drop out and pursue his own path. Family patriarch Mike is disgruntled by his son’s news and attempts to guilt him into staying the course and becoming a pastor.
But when Mike’s harsh words drive Lawrence away from the house (and into the arms of friend-with-benefits AJ), Peggy tells Mike to ease up on their son and let him choose his own future. “I don’t care what any of my kids do… I just want ’em around,” she tells her husband. “They’ll scatter to the forewinds soon enough. I won’t have you pushing one of them out the door.”
Later that night, Mike takes Lawrence for a drive and reveals the regret he sometimes feels over not attending college himself; though Mike will understand if Lawrence wants to leave the seminary, he urges his son to get a college degree of some sort so that he can make a nice life for himself. “My father… scratched at the earth for a living,” Mike says. “I want my sons reaching for the stars.” And with that, he and Lawrence go to dine on some waffles, which is the proper ending to any good heart-to-heart.
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