‘The Family’ Premiere Review: Little Boy Found

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ABC’s latest mystery-based show, “The Family” is in keeping with the likes of their other successful series “How to Get Away with Murder” and “Secrets & Lies,” in that it covers a specific mystery throughout the course of an entire season. In this case, it’s the disappearance of a young boy, presumed murdered- only to return ten years later, bruised and battered but very much alive. But is he who he claims to be?

If this sounds familiar to you, then chances are you’ve seen the documentary “The Imposter” or any number of shows that have used a similar plotline, notably “Elementary” most recently, and I can’t imagine one of the iterations of “Law & Order” hasn’t done it at some point, being as how they do “ripped from the headlines”-type storylines all the time.

One could also make a case for it being similar to something like “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” or “The Stepford Wives,” in that it deals with someone returning after a period of time unaccounted for but seeming more than a little bit off than they did before they left. Here, one could certainly make a case for the reason being alleged abuse- and those scars had to come from somewhere, right? And the DNA test matches, to boot.

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However, there is indeed more to the story. For one thing, the person who supposedly did the DNA test doesn’t exist, so what’s up with that? Then there’s the fact that the kid’s brother notices certain oddball characteristics that don’t quite add up, i.e. his sudden new fondness for eggs where he previously hated them and his complete and utter lack of recollection of his favorite hobby at the time of his abduction: the whole ship-in-a-bottle thing, as evidenced when he asks “how they do that”- when he himself used to do it all the time.

Last but not least, but unbeknownst to everyone else as of yet, we see the young man watching and re-watching old home videos of himself in obsessive detail, seemingly not because of a much-needed trip down memory lane, but rather as if he’s actually studying them. Perhaps for clues on how to behave? How to speak? Tell-tale tics and expressions and the like?

Hard to say this early on, but one thing’s for sure- not everything is how it seems to be, and the kid isn’t the only one keeping secrets, that’s for sure. Indeed, he’s just the tip of the iceberg, it seems. The father of the family, John Warren (Rupert Graves, “Sherlock”) is clearly having an affair with the cop assigned to the case ten years ago, Nina Meyer (Margot Bingham, “Boardwalk Empire”), who was promoted for “solving” the case at the time.

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The affair might well have broken up John’s marriage to Mayor Claire Warren (multiple Oscar nominated Joan Allen, who knows a few things about playing politics from “Nixon” and “The Contender”), a social climber looking to run for Governor- and not above using her own son’s misfortune to help her win.

There’s also daughter Willa (Alison Pill, “The Newsroom”), who apparently lied to frame the person busted for committing the crime, local pedophile Hank (Andrew McCarthy, a long way from “Pretty in Pink”) – and quite possibly planted evidence to make sure he went down for it.

Meanwhile, son Danny (Zach Gilford, “Friday Night Lights”) is a loser who was making out with a girl when he should have been keeping his eye on his brother, which is how he was abducted in the first place. Be that as it may, he’s also the one least swayed by the returned boy, Adam (an excellent Liam James, of “The Killing” and “The Way Way Back” fame).

Clearly blaming himself for Adam’s abduction, he’s descended into heavy drinking and whoring by the time the girl in question that was making out with him on that fateful day, Bridey (Floriana Lima, “The Mob Doctor”), now a reporter, catches up with him. This allows her to easily milk the clueless guy for info on the case for a story she hopes will be her big break at the newspaper she works for, where she currently writes a lesbian-themed column!

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If that last bit of business sounds a little ridiculous, then wait until you see the size of the newspaper office she works in- not to mention the amount of press that shows up for Mayor Warren’s conference on the return of her son and the announcement of her intent to run for Governor.

For a small town, this is all a bit much to swallow, but I suppose it’s more believable than the seemingly near-complete lack of interest in the most insane mystery ever in the small town depicted on ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars.” (Actually, they just changed it to Free Form, but it just goes to show that ABC is no stranger to nutty mysteries- witness also the insanity going on in the aforementioned “How to Get Away With Murder.”)

That said, though a lot of this is somewhat generic and feels all too familiar, there is no denying it’s well-acted, thanks to that ace cast, and the general mystery is just intriguing enough to make me want to keep watching, so there’s that.

While the mention of a “Red Dragon” makes one assume the show is aiming for loftier goals than, say, the likes of “PLL”- note that it’s also the name of the classic murder-mystery novel of the same name by famed author Thomas Harris, of “The Silence of the Lambs” notoriety- it’s nowhere near as good as all that.

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Rather, it’s more in keeping with “Secrets & Lies”- nothing you haven’t seen before, but just engaging enough to keep you watching, which may be all ABC is hoping for, really. Given that they premiered it on a Thursday in the typical “Scandal” slot may well indicate that even they know it might be an uphill battle in its normal time-slot, Sundays at the same time as “The Good Wife,” which is in its final season and about to wrap things up. Stiff competition, that.

Still, not everyone watches that show- myself included- so maybe those stray viewers will forgo that show for this one, if they’re not watching the FOX line-up at the same time, that is. We shall see, beginning this Sunday, but for the time being, I imagine it will have done just fine in the premiere time-slot. The real question is whether they will follow the show to Sundays, though. I guess ABC will find out soon enough.

What did you think of “The Family”? Was the pilot strong enough to keep you watching? How about the cast? Did the main mystery grab you? How do you think it will fare on Sundays? Sound off on this and more down below, and I’ll see you in a few weeks for a recap!