Almost Family is a new Fox drama that has marketed itself as a feel-good show that demonstrates family can be found in the strangest of ways. What the show is actually about, or at least what it should be about, is that the "strangest of ways," in this case, refers to a doctor with a God complex (Timothy Hutton) who artificially inseminates women with his own sperm without their consent.
The series begins by introducing viewers to Julia (Brittany Snow), the only acknowledged daughter of Dr. Leon Bechley (Hutton), who has spent her entire adult life in her father's shadow. It is soon revealed the renowned fertility doctor may have used his own sperm to help his patients get pregnant. The shock of the accusation causes Leon to have a heart attack, leaving Julia in charge of his clinic and doing damage control. To dismiss the rumors, Julia administers free DNA tests to anyone questioning a potential parental connection with Leon, only to find out they aren't rumors at all. Leon truly did impregnate more than dozens of women with his own seed without telling them (an official number is never actually given).
One of the first people to come for a DNA test is a hot dude Julia hooked up with two days prior — yeah, the first discovered repercussion of this disaster of a situation is incest. And it only goes downhill from there. Julia is soon bombarded by Roxy (Emily Osment), a former gymnast who has turned to pills to help her cope with her fading glory. Sick of being used by her leech-like parents, Roxy clings to the idea of befriending Julia and having the family she never felt she had.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Edie (Megalyn Echikunwoke), a close family friend of Julia and her father who grew up resenting their stable home life only to find out Leon was her biological father all along. She's much slower to warm up to Julia, but the confusion over the situation — and her sexuality — pushes her to find solace in someone who hasn't lied to her her entire life and isn't part of her heterosexual marriage. By the end of the episode, the three women reluctantly admit they're "family" now and will forge ahead to build a relationship as sisters.
It didn't go nearly as well for Leon, who was arrested at the end of the premiere. The egregious nature of his actions pushed the district attorney to up his charges from fraud to sexual assault, which is a more serious crime and will come with heavier consequences.
There are still a lot of questions that remain unanswered at the end of the Almost Family pilot, and while some of them are expected, others point to some holes in the controversial premise of the show. First, why is it these three women decide to forge a bond and not include their dozens of other siblings? Will every child born from Leon's misdeeds be invited into the fold? Why or why not?
Secondly, how do they feel about what Leon has done? Julia was upset her father lied to her and that she wasn't his only child, but after turning over crucial evidence that helped the D.A. make the arrest, she looks genuinely shocked and concerned. Obviously she still holds affection for her father, but can she really defend what he's done to dozens and dozens of women?
Meanwhile, is Roxy still intent on building a relationship with Leon now that the scope of what he's done has been revealed? And will Edie reconsider defending this man now that she's decided she doesn't absolutely hate his daughter? The flippant nature in which everyone addressed Leon's actions until the real charges were revealed at the end of the episode were disturbing, to say the least.
But the biggest and most important question is: Who are we supposed to be rooting for here? Leon admits in the episode that he's not a good person, and his selfish manipulation of Julia to try and get her to destroy evidence for him only makes him seem like even more of a sociopath. He's clearly the bad guy here, but does that automatically make Julia, Roxy, and Edie the heroes of the show? It's hard to root for them when their motivations haven't clearly been mapped out either.
The loose threads that exist at the end of Almost Family's premiere make the show messy, and not in an intriguing way but a morally questionable way. If these pivotal questions aren't answered soon, the heartwarming tone this show is trying to achieve will be a fallacy. The gravity of what Leon has done truly needs to be felt for this show to be authentic, and in turn generate any real emotional attachment to these characters and their journeys.
Almost Family airs Wednesdays at 9/8c on Fox.