As they do on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” the producers of “Find My Family” don’t just tug at the heartstrings; rather, they yank, twist and defibrillate them, all set to cloyingly sentimental music. Unabashedly hokey, the series reunites parents with children they gave up for adoption, literally bringing them together under a “family tree” in a pastoral meadow. If you can get past that level of manipulation, this show will likely connect emotionally — delivering on its promise of “moving moments and tears of joy.”
ABC will wisely use “Dancing With the Stars” as a springboard to introduce a half-hour version of the series, expanding to its regular 60-minute form the following Monday. Each episode consists of two stories, as hosts Tim Green and Lisa Joyner (both, they note, adopted themselves) gently lead the parties through the reunion — and, amid all the hugging and crying, even get choked up themselves.
The two stories previewed involve a middle-age couple seeking to find the daughter they gave up as teens; and a man seeking his biological mother in part because his own son is about to ship off to Afghanistan, creating an incentive to know the family’s entire medical history.
Relatively little time is given to the unseen investigators who hunt down the missing relatives, the better to unleash the waterworks when the blood kin meet. In both of these cases, everyone says all the right things — including paying tribute to the adoptive parents who actually underwent the rigors of raising these children.
At the risk of seeming insensitive (then again, what else is new?), the irritating aspect of “Find My Family” is that it appears to embrace the notion that blood is at least as thick as the sweat and tears part of parenting — confusing a failure to master birth control with the arduous work of raising a child.
“Find My Family” works strictly as television precisely because the format so neatly sidesteps the thornier issues that surround locating biological relatives decades later. It’s very effective as melodrama, and inordinately well suited to spill beyond primetime onto network morning shows, augmented by the obligatory analysis from shrinks and counselors.
In terms of being convincing as “reality,” though, the show mirrors much of this genre, which requires the complicity of an unquestioning audience willing to absorb the drama at face value — letting “Family” into their hearts, while fastidiously bypassing their heads.