Crazy! Within hours of watching The Real O'Neals for the very first time, ABC surprisingly renew the show for a second season! However, I must say I was a little disappointed with the show for several reasons, the main of which is the series' main character Kenny. When you have a show which is focused mainly on a single character within a zany family, it is imperative that the character is likeable. Kenny, for most part, is not likeable. No, not because he's gay, but due to his resting fright face, his cynical, finicky and insufferable attitude makes him unlikeable. Kenny is the perfect example of the modern day "Ryan Murphy Era of the Gay Male". If you take a look at his shows Glee and The New Normal, and Kenny in this non-Ryan Murphy show, all the gay characters are nauseatingly obnoxious and sickly sweet. They are unrealistic and cartoonish portrayals of gay males which pander to the stereotype of being quite scathing and talking at unhuman speeds.
I have often heard people suggest certain television shows would be better off without their lead characters I feel as though if Kenny was younger (12/13) rather than a teenager, less precocious and played by a different actor, he would be more likeable. Ironically, Kenny is said to be based on media pundit Dan Savage who is, for a lack of a better word, hated by many which may explain why Kenny is the way he is. While Kenny's anxiety can at times be frustrating, there are times when it can be pulled off successfully. Fox's short lived coming of age comedy Surviving Jack starred Connor Buckley in the lead role Frankie whose transition to high school evoked similar feelings of anxiety, which were conveyed in a more palatable manner.
A show like The Real O'Neals, The Wonder Years, Malcolm in the Middle, Everybody Hates Chris and even Suburgatory worked because they made their central characters the relatable ones who were surrounded by oddball family members and friends. Hopefully in the second season, Kenny's character is toned down to make him more normal and more likeable. This does not mean he shouldn't fanboy over Project Runway or hot guys who resemble Jason Derulo, but sometimes less is more. The characters around Kenny i.e. his family are sitcom tropes we are all to familiar with. The overly critical mother played by Martha Plimpton who makes a seamless transition from playing the total opposite in Raising Hope. At times, The Real O'Neals writing does not play to Plimpton's talents and at times falls flat. It is times like these when one realise just how difficult it is to write such a character like Lois and actually be able to pull it off. We have the jock/bully big brother played by Matt Shively who is one of the highlights of the show, the dopey dad played by J.R. Ferguson and the smart/nerdy/romantically frustrated teen daughter played by Bebe Wood (who also starred on The New Normal).
The Real O'Neals has the potential is by no means a terrible show. It is watchable and has the potential to flourish if it makes the necessary changes heading into its second season. While many aspects of the show are what we have all seen before, it is integral that Kenny becomes more likeable and real.
Based in Chicago, the O’Neals appear to be a seemingly picture perfect family, but their lives soon take an unexpected turn when surprising truths are revealed. Eileen is a mom who usually has a fine grasp on all matters under her roof, and her soon-to-be-ex-husband Pat is a good-natured father and emotional centre of the family. Their normal routine at home suddenly gets turned upside down when Eileen and Pat announce their divorce, and their sixteen-year-old son Kenny reveals to his family that he is gay. Kenny never would have imagined his admission would also result in outing his entire family’s secrets, including revelations from his older brother, Jimmy, and little sister, Shannon. What seems like a sudden upheaval that could mark the end of the O’Neals idyllic lives turns out to be the beginning of a bright new chapter when everyone stops pretending to be perfect and actually starts being real.
The Real O’Nealsstars Martha Plimpton as Eileen, Jay R. Ferguson as Pat, Noah Galvin as Kenny, Matt Shively as Jimmy, Bebe Wood as Shannon and Mary Hollis Inboden as Jodi.
The Real O’Neals teleplay was written by Casey Johnson & David Windsor and Josh Sternin & Jennifer Ventimilia, based on a story by Josh Sternin & Jennifer Ventimilia. Executive producers of the series are Casey Johnson, David Windsor, Stacy Traub, Dan Savage, Brian Pines, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Dan McDermott and Todd Holland. “The Real O’Neals” is from ABC Studios.