tek's rating:

The Real O'Neals, on ABC
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First, I need to say that ever since I first heard of this show, probably a few months before its March 2016 premiere, I have been unable to read, hear, or think of the title without thinking of "The Real Deal with Bill McNeal," from NewsRadio. But hey, that's just me, and it has nothing to do with this show. (Edit: as I reread this review to update it after season 2, I suddenly realized it's been awhile since I thought of that. So that's good.) Also, in the weeks leading up to its premiere, ads for the show featured a scene where all the family members revealed their own secrets to each other. However, since the premiere, only two of those secrets seem to be of any importance. But anyway, the show is fairly amusing.

Season One
The show is about an Irish Catholic family in Chicago. The parents are a cop named Pat O'Neal (Jay R. Ferguson, whom I mainly know from Evening Shade) and his wife, Eileen (Martha Plimpton, whom I've seen in other things, such as The Goonies). (I gotta say, I'm used to thinking of both actors as teenagers, and seeing them now as the parents of teenagers makes me feel old.) In the pilot, Eileen and Pat reveal to their kids that they're separating, and eventually going to get a divorce. For now, Pat begins living in the basement. I should also mention another character we see a lot of, Jodi O'Neal, who is Pat's brother's ex-wife (and Eileen's best friend, I guess). Anyway... Pat and Eileen's oldest child is 17-year-old Jimmy, who seems to me kind of like a dumb jock stereotype, except he's basically a pretty good guy. In the pilot, he reveals that he thinks he's anorexic, but that's one of those things that so far hasn't come into play since the pilot (and even then, I was pretty sure he was mistaken about that). The youngest child is 14-year-old Shannon, who revealed that she'd been... um, I guess... embezzling money she was supposed to be raising for the church, or something. Also, she has begun questioning her faith. She seems like potentially the most interesting character, to me, because she sort of has the veneer of a typical "good Catholic girl," or whatever, but is actually... I'm not sure how to say... I mean, aside from the embezzling, she does seem basically good, and I wouldn't really say there's anything "dark" or even "wild" about her, but... there's a sort of... impishness, or something, about her. The word "snarky" also comes to mind, though even that doesn't seem quite right. It's just that she seems to take some glee in the fact that her supposedly perfect family has turned out not to be so perfect, after all. Unlike the other O'Neals, who all seem quite perturbed by it. Especially Eileen, who desperately wants to maintain the family's squeaky-clean reputation. (I should say, throughout the series, Shannon will occasionally come up with some amusing schemes, generally to make money.)

But the most dramatic revelation comes from the 16-year-old middle child, Kenny, who reveals that he's gay. And while a fair amount of time will be spent with everyone trying to adjust to Eileen and Pat's separation, the show mainly focuses on Kenny. Most of his family quickly comes to terms with his revelation, but it's harder for his mother. (It's also hard for his girlfriend, Mimi, of course. But we don't really see her much, after the pilot.) But it's hardest for Kenny himself, who doesn't really know anything about... how to be gay. It's hard enough for any teenager to figure out complicated things like romantic/sexual feelings and relationships, but of course it's even harder for someone who's spent his whole life in a sort of religious bubble, without much exposure to anyone who's like him. Besides which, he doesn't want to upset his mother, though he also wants her to accept him for who he is. And that would probably make for an interesting enough premise for a show, but it becomes even more interesting, because we occasionally see cutaway scenes of Kenny's imagination. (He does seem to imagine some odd things, which is understandable for someone who's experiencing so much confusion and anxiety. Sometimes his imaginings are very vivid and complex, even, I might say, fabulous. Other times, it's not even a cut-scene, he just imagines Jesus in the room with him, talking about stuff.)

Season Two
In the season premiere, Kenny decides to start an LGBT club at school. But since the only other gay kid at his school (Stuart, with whom Kenny never got along) had transferred to another school, it seemed there would be no one to join Kenny's club. (Except Jimmy, who isn't gay.) However, a girl named Allison joins the club and becomes a friend to Kenny. He wants her to come out to her parents for National Coming Out Day, until he finds out that they would kick her out if they knew she was a lesbian. So, he tells her to wait until it's safe for her to come out to them. Meanwhile, I really enjoy her addition to the show. She's like my new favorite character. (She seems very phlegmatic, in an amusing way, but she occasionally displays aspects of her personality that her usual demeanor make surprising.) In other news, I need to mention that at the end of last season, Eileen started dating Clive Murray, the vice principal of her kids' high school. They kept that a secret all summer, but at the start of this season they finally revealed the truth to Pat (after Pat and Clive became friends, unaware that Clive and Eileen were dating). And before long, Pat moves from his family's basement to their garage, which he fixes up into a "tiny house." And Pat and Eileen's divorce is finalized. Also, Eileen starts working at the hair salon where Jodi works. And around Christmas, Kenny starts dating a guy named Brett Young, who becomes his first boyfriend. However, they break up shortly before Valentine's Day. And in the season finale, Allison begins staying at the O'Neals house for awhile, under false pretenses. But she eventually reveals that her parents had discovered she's a lesbian, and as expected, they threw her out of the house. Kenny and Eileen try to convince them to accept Allison for who she is, but they blame Kenny for "changing" her, and refuse to accept her unless she "fixes her problem." So, Eileen says Allison can stay with them until her parents fix their problem. Also in that episode, Clive proposes to Eileen, but she declines, as she's not ready for things to change, yet. Also, Jimmy gets accepted to a college that would take him far away from his family, and he's not sure he's ready for that.

And there are some other recurring characters I feel I should mention, at least in passing. There's a boy named Ethan, first seen at the end of season one, who is now Shannon's boyfriend. But we don't see much of him, and so far I find him kind of unmemorable. There's also a woman named Gloria, who works at the same precinct as Pat. She's been seen in several episodes of both seasons, sometimes as a potential love interest for Pat, but that never panned out. Also, there's a gay man named Steve, who works at the salon with Jodi and Eileen. And in the Valentine's Day episode of season 2, we see that Allison has a girlfriend. (I don't think that her name was mentioned, nor is she seen again, though in the season finale, Allison says her parents found out she was gay when they saw her kissing her girlfriend.) And there are some other characters who are of less interest to me than these, whom I don't even feel the need to mention.

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