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'The Family' draws mixed reviews, but ABC is winning kudos for another crime drama

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(Read caption) 'The Family' executive producer Jenna Bans (r., with series star Rupert Graves) speaks during the Television Critics Association winter press tour.

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A new TV series, ABC’s “The Family,” premieres on TV on March 3. 

“Family” stars Joan Allen as a politician whose son, Adam, vanished. Ten years later, a boy is claiming to be the person who disappeared. 

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The program also stars Andrew McCarthy, Alison Pill, Rupert Graves, and Zach Gilford.

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The show is one of ABC’s midseason offerings, premiering alongside such shows as the Shonda Rhimes program “The Catch” and the comedy “The Real O’Neals.” 

Reviews for the show so far are mixed. New York Times writer Neil Genzlinger wrote that “Family” has an “appealing cast… yes, this show is guilty-pleasure fare, but, at least after two episodes, it holds interest rather well.” Los Angeles Times writer Mary McNamara found that “given the intensity of the subject matter, ‘The Family’ might have been better served by the slower, mood-saturated tendencies of cable… To rush [the storyline of an imprisoned child], as creator Jenna Bans does in the first two hours of ‘The Family,’ not only diminishes the drama, it makes the heinous details seem manipulative." 

Meanwhile, USA Today writer Robert Bianco wrote of the program, “When Allen and McCarthy are given scenes that reflect the way actual human beings might respond to the loss and return of a child, or the loss and return of freedom, ‘Family’ momentarily takes your breath away. But then it’s off again, either making the characters so hateful that you have a hard time caring how the story turns out, or making the situations so crassly titillating, you have a hard time justifying your continued presence.  My advice? Don’t try.” 

We’ll see if “Family” improves as it goes along. But the show currently stands in contrast to another drama from ABC that has drawn almost universal acclaim: “American Crime.”

The anthology show “Crime” is currently in its second season and stars actors including Regina King, Felicity Huffman, and Timothy Hutton. The current episodes center on an accusation of sexual assault at a private school.

“Many of us are willing to put up with a few dull stretches if a show offers some compensating virtues, like, say, even a tenth of the richness and depth of ABC’s best drama, the superb ‘American Crime,’” Bianco wrote in his review of “Family.” 

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Meanwhile, Variety critic Brian Lowry called “Crime” “thoughtful, sobering, and spare… It all speaks to a level of ambition that has become increasingly rare in the broadcast spectrum, as if abdicating to cable this level of quality, or at least the willingness to tackle serious issues in such a nuanced manner.”

ABC's show "Black-ish" also recently drew acclaim for an episode that discussed police brutality.


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