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The McCarthys Brings a New Perspective to Gays on TV

November 5, 2014

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The McCarthys is one of the lesser promoted new comedies of the season, despite having a name like Laurie Metcalf as Marjorie, the matriarch of the cast. The show revolves around a close-knit Boston family that loves sports probably more than life itself, as the father, Arthur (Jack McGee), is a basketball coach and one of his three sons, Gerard (Joey McIntyre), coaches JV. We see the family through the eyes of the black sheep of the family, Ronny (Tyler Ritter), who happens to be gay. Rounding out the family is the dim-witted third son, Sean (Jimmy Dunn), and lone daughter Jackie (Kelen Coleman).

In the pilot, Ronny announces that he has received a job offer that would require him to move to Providence, RI, a prospect that his family is firmly against. Since the entire family all live within the same city block, it is easy to see why one of them moving is anathema to the clan. They try several ploys to get him to stay, including Marjorie lying that she is ill (an incredibly funny and well played bit by Metcalf), Jackie revealing that she’s pregnant with a dead man’s baby (an unnecessary twist, but Coleman is pretty funny as the tomboyish sister, so this could be a gold mine for the show), throwing Ronny a “gay bar” party so he can meet men (unsuccessfully), and Arthur naming him as his new assistant coach, despite Ronny’s lack of aptitude for and knowledge of the sport. This all surrounds the death of Arthur’s former assistant coach, Fats, who is revealed to be the father of Jackie’s baby (a little strange, but we really haven’t been introduced to any other viable candidates yet, so I guess that works).

I went into the show with a good deal of skepticism. No show with a gay character as the lead has found success in the last few years, so my hopes weren’t not high. However, throughout the show, there were multiple occasions where I laughed right out loud, mostly brought on by Metcalf’s performance. The ensemble is good, but Metcalf really shines as the mother who loves her children unconditionally, and tries to be open-minded but goes about it very wrongly.

While the show is funny, it does have its flaws. It feels like there’s one too many characters in the family, so it’s possible that one of the characters may get lost in the story and only pop in for the occasional punchline (I’m looking at you, Sean), and since they’re family members, it’s not like they can get written out of the show if they don’t work. It’s all or nothing for The McCarthys, which could be a strength or a weakness: only time will tell.

What I really wonder about the show, however, is how they’ll treat the gay issue. There are a lot of ignorant comments made throughout the pilot, but they don’t come from a place of hatred or discrimination. Instead, they come from a place of love and literally not knowing any better. This could quickly turn into a series of stereotypical gay jokes throughout the show, but it has the potential to become something really wonderful. We’ve seen a lot of families react to having gay relatives in a variety of ways on TV: rejection, acceptance, hatred, love, and indifference, to name a few. What we haven’t seen is a family that is accepting, but really just has no idea how to treat their son and brother. From Marjorie bringing a straight guy to the “gay bar” party, to her not knowing if Ronny was still “giving it a go” being gay, to Arthur renaming classic cocktails to insert the name “man” and being excited that he didn’t have to change the name of the Manhattan, to the brothers inviting the only gay man they know, the over the top flamboyant organist from church, the family means well, but they just don’t quite hit the mark, and the results are hilarious.

I really hope that’s the track the show stays on with regards to this issue. Not only is it funnier that way, there is also huge potential for numerous “teaching moments” throughout the course of the show that could illuminate the issue for viewers at home who may be in a similar situation. I can’t even count the number of times coworkers and family members have made jokes or comments, thinking they’re in on the joke, when what they say is actually ignorant or sometimes even offensive. Depending on the situation, I’ll laugh it off or correct them, but a show like this could speak to a group of people that is growing in this country: people that have no issues with the gay people in their lives, but just have no idea how to act around us.

I’m really excited about where this show could go, even if it’s just watching Metcalf’s comic genius at work. The show has a lot of potential and is a nice addition to an already strong night of comedy for CBS’ Thursday night lineup.

The McCarthys airs Thursdays at 9:30pm on CBS.

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