WHEN | WHERE Previews Thursday night at 9 on ABC/7, then moves to its regular time slot, Sundays at 9 p.m.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT A family in the small town of Red Pines, Maine, has a shattering tragedy — the family’s youngest boy, Adam, is apparently abducted while his mom, Claire Warren (Joan Allen), is campaigning at a county fair for a town government gig. Flash forward 10 years: Adam (Liam James) suddenly stumbles back home.
But over those years, a neighbor, Hank Asher (Andrew McCarthy), had gone to jail after being convicted of Adam’s murder. The other family members — sister Willa (Alison Pill), big brother Danny (Zach Gilford) and their dad, John (Rupert Graves) — have struggled with the loss but gone on with their lives. When Asher is released from jail after Adam’s return, they’ve got to deal with that miscarriage of justice, and so does the cop, Det. Nina Meyer (Margot Bingham), who put the guy behind bars in the first place. Meanwhile, she now has to hunt down the real kidnapper.
MY SAY “The Family” wants to be something but, even after a couple episodes, never quite gets around to what that “something” is. Drama? Soap? Psychological thriller, murder mystery, detective procedural? Or maybe just straight-ahead family melodrama with side detours to each?
“The Family” also toggles between past and present, but doesn’t have much luck finding genre answers in the past either. Meanwhile, there’s a “clue” here, or a “reveal” there. Everyone’s got a secret. Everyone carries a burden of guilt. Everyone has done stuff he or she wished they hadn’t done.
Suddenly there’s a twist! Eureka! You think — or hope — “The Family” is about to resolve its identity crisis and get down to the business of telling a story that’s engaging or worth telling. But the hope is fleeting, the twist a tease, and the show — you must finally, reluctantly and quite accurately conclude — is basically just a bore.
We’ve all been down these kinds of roads before and usually hated ourselves in the morning for making the trip. “The Killing” comes immediately to mind, although at least that had a great start, engaging leads and a soggy/sinister Seattle setting that diverted our attention when the story lagged. “The Family” doesn’t even do much with its presumptive Maine locale.
The show could almost skate over all of this if there were a bedrock of plausibility, but instead of bedrock there’s sand: What mother wouldn’t or couldn’t recognize her own son even after an absence of 10 years? What father? Instead, Claire Warren uses Adam’s return as a pretext to run for governor, while John uses it as an opportunity to leap back into the arms of a former lover. Adam? Oh, him . . .
BOTTOM LINE A drag.