By Anubhuti Kumar, contributing writer
As a family is seen running out of a church holding a canoe over their heads, the audience gets a back-story, “The Real O’Neals.” Eileen, the matriarch of a very Catholic Irish family always keeps her loved ones on their best behavior. They never miss church and Eileen’s favorite pastime is doing work for the church and ensuring that everybody knows about it. This Chicago family’s perfectly cheery exterior quickly unravels in a comical way to reveal the secrets and insights of every family while commenting on the role religion plays in all their lives.
By the end of the first episode the audience finds out that of the three children, one is a kleptomaniac, one is anorexic, and one is gay. Not only that, but the parents admit that they have been in couples therapy for the past year and are getting a divorce. But they don’t just admit this to each other. They accidentally admit all this to the entire church from behind a thin wall at a silent auction Eileen organized and convinced her husband to donate his canoe to their showcase, a big ticket item.
Loosely inspired by the creator Dan Savage’s own life, the show is a witty, entertaining look into the hypocrisy and ironies of religion. The middle child Kenny narrates the show, the 16-year-old son that reveals he is gay.
“The Real O’Neals” is appealing to follow because of the interesting fall of grace for the model Catholic family that, at least the mother, is so invested in her status. As they loose their holier than thou label, it seems as though they may actually become a closer, more honest family. Ironically these characteristics are considered quintessential to any religion, but the new midseason sitcom premiere clearly demonstrates that it does often carry out to practicality and practice.
As the O’Neal’s realize they are less than perfect, they also start to realize that maybe their own happiness and relationships are more important to maintain than the airs they put on and the face they present to others. Especially the hypocritical church members that look for any crack or flaw in the facade to begin their gossip and judgment. In a fit of rebellion after investing her life in this community, Eileen decides to steal back her husband’s canoe from the auction after her established rival takes a few jabs at the latest developments in the O’Neal family as well as buys the boat for much less than its worth. The entire family comes together to make it happen.
ABC has a substantial new comedy for its Tuesday night lineup at 8:30. “The Real O’Neals” goes beyond cheap laughs and instead addresses current issues in a light but clever way and provides insight into the modern America family, one above bigotry and embracing of acceptance.
The “Real O’Neils” airs Tuesdays at 8:30