'Family Reunion' is a fun ride featuring a great cast, light-hearted humor and just a touch of social commentary
The new family sitcom from Netflix, which tells the story of the McKellan family, feels like a cross between 'Modern Family' and 'The Carmichael Show'.
Netflix is all set to drop ‘Family Reunion’, a brand new family sitcom, on July 10. It features a star-studded cast and has the distinction of being the very first sitcom scripted by an all-black writers’ room. It is a multigenerational, multicamera comedy that tells the story of a retired NFL player who moves back to his childhood home with his wife and kids.
We got our hands on the show's pilot episode and here's what we think of the new sitcom:
Like any good family show, ‘Family Reunion’ brings with it a quirky yet close-knit family, the McKellans. The differing ideologies and worldviews of the family members are front and center on the show and most of the comedy comes from the clash between the younger generation’s modern parenting ideas and the older ones' more traditional approach. It’s almost like ‘Modern Family’ and ‘The Carmichael Show’ had a baby who moved to Seattle to become an NFL player, retired, and then moved back home with his wife and kids.
That’s also pretty much the backstory of Moz McKellan, played by Anthony Alabi. The fact that Alabi himself used to be a football player helps with his portrayal of the character. Moz is a relatable, sincere family guy who does not conform to the stereotype of the big dumb jock. The mixture of love, fear, and respect he holds for his parents is equal parts relatable and adorable.
Moz’s wife Cocoa is a modern woman and, like him, she espouses a vastly different worldview from her parents-in-law. She is a mother who treasures the honest relationships she has with each of her children, though her children themselves aren’t entirely above giving her a hard time. Tia Mowry puts on a fun performance as Cocoa and provides a perfect contrast to Moz’s mother, M’Dear (Loretta Devine).
In ‘Family Reunion’, Devine channels much of the same energy from her role as Cynthia Carmichael on ‘The Carmichael Show’. She’s an old-school matriarch who believes in corporal punishment, hours of prayer, and family time as absolutely necessary for the proper upbringing of a child. She’s loving, kind, and unafraid to speak her mind. Devine’s portrayal of the character is spot on and her chemistry with her on-screen husband, played by none other than the legendary Richard Roundtree, is absolutely perfect.
Of course, a family show is incomplete without its kids. The McKellan’s eldest daughter Jade (Talia Jackson) is pretty much the most prominent character in the show’s pilot and her white upbringing leads to some profound realizations about just how much she has missed out on her cultural history. Her siblings are just as shocked as her to be around so many people of their own race, their life in Seattle having robbed them of the chance to really be in touch with their roots.
Cultural commentary aside, the McKellan kids are a bunch of lovable scamps. Jackson’s on-screen siblings played by Isaiah Russell-Bailey, Cameron J. “CJ” Wright, and Jordyn Raya James are all adorable little monsters who bring out the humor in every situation. There’s a scene in the pilot where the kids fake a spiritual revelation to get out of church and it is one of the best parts of the first episode.
On the downside, the show can get a bit formulaic and quite predictable but then again, it is a sitcom and not a crime thriller. If you’re in the mood for a bit of light-hearted fun (and dancing) with just a touch of social commentary and nostalgia, this is the show for you.
‘Family Reunion’ will debut on Netflix on July 10, 2019.