Monday, June 3, 2013

'The Fosters' Premiere Review - 1.01 Pilot

        On the series premiere of ABC Family's The Fosters, Stef Foster and Lena Adams' lives are disrupted when they welcome a hardened teen with an abusive past, Callie, into their eclectic family home mixed with Stef's biological son from a previous marriage, Brandon, and their adopted twins, Mariana and Jesus.

        The Fosters definitely has its heart in the right place. It also has the potential to be a great series. But The Fosters pilot is a huge mess riddled with exposition and story movement instead of fleshing out real characters. In a genre that boasts hits like Parenthood and Switched at Birth, The Fosters simply does not measure up - in its pilot episode alone. I wish ABC Family had sent out another episode to critics so I would understand better what the show is trying to do with this assortment of characters. Judging on one episode though, The Fosters is a show that while not spectacular I would recommend to keep watching because of its ability to grow and figure itself out as the season continues. I'm just not fairly confident that version of this show will be seen soon or not.
        The Foster family is a foster family. That on-the-noseness is very telling of the overall nature of this pilot. Every scene is carefully explained out and thusly not really allowing its portrayers to offer anything deeper than what's written on the page. Leading couple Stef Foster (Teri Polo) and Lena Adams (Sherri Saum) are a loving lesbian couple and how the show depicts their relationship is perhaps the biggest revelatory thing the premiere accomplishes. They are not the couple madly in love and in the honeymoon phase of their relationship nor are they the old married couple who have grown apart. They are in love but have been together so long that they are simply comfortable with each other and how they do everything. Polo and Saum definitely are the only performances here that stand out well and as likable. Their emotional beats come the closest to the series operating as well as it can. Newcomer Maia Mitchell is also given a lot to do as Callie, the troubled teen who moves into the Foster home at the start of the hour. Her performance is enough for me to understand the emotions the show is trying to obtain but doesn't go above and beyond what is necessary. The rest of the young cast - David Lambert as Brandon, Stef's biological child, and Jake T. Austin and Cierra Ramirez as Jesus and Mariana Foster, the adopted twins - simply are not asked to do much. The side plot revolving around the twins is such a miss here simply because there are no emotional stakes developed for them. Meeting their birth mother is a story with so much weight just attached to it but we have no clue what such a thing would mean for these two characters.
        ABC Family has assembled such an eclectic slate of different genres. There have the very TGIF similar comedies in Melissa & Joey and Baby Daddy. They have family-based drama that have drawn critical attention in Switched at Birth, Bunheads and The Secret Life of the American Teenager - which ends its run tonight. And finally, they have soap-based mysteries in Pretty Little Liars, The Lying Game and the upcoming Twisted. The Fosters does feel like it belongs on ABC Family and is a perfect pairing tonal wise with the great Switched at Birth - which returns next week. Premiering the show after the series finale of The Secret Life of the American Teenager in theory sounds like a smart move. However, that show is no longer a powerhouse in the ratings like it used to be which gives me trepidation that only a small group will sample this show tonight. 

So what did everyone think of the premiere? Will you tune back in again next week? Did anything in the pilot really surprise you or was the plotting to by-the-numbers? Share your thoughts in the comments.