TV Review: ‘Becoming Us’

Becoming Us Review on ABC Family

“Becoming Us” gets enough things right that one is inclined to give this ABC Family reality series the benefit of the doubt regarding the times when it feels overproduced, manipulative and like a poor man’s version of “Doogie Howser, M.D.” Told primarily from the perspective of a teenage boy dealing with the fact his father is becoming a woman, this Ryan Seacrest production joins TV’s transgender moment, representing a specific attempt to explore the impact on families. In the process, the show unearths warmth and emotion that’s consistently offset, alas, by genre staples that tend to undermine the “reality.”

Ben, 16, is described as an ordinary Midwestern teenager, other than the fact that his father and mother have divorced (OK, that part’s pretty ordinary), with dad, Carly, announcing plans to become a woman. Ben’s support system includes his girlfriend, Danielle, whose own father is in the midst of the same change. (Exactly how the two kids met goes rather conspicuously unaddressed through the first two episodes.)

It doesn’t take a lot for teenagers to act surly, and Ben is clearly no exception. His grades have suffered, he’s constantly late for things, and he spends a lot of time texting friends or receiving messages from Carly, with the text helpfully popping up on the screen.

Carly provides the show with much of its humanity, offering insight into her transition, and how wrenching that can be. “It’s not a hobby being who I am,” she says.

Invariably, though, the series keeps veering back to familiar tropes, from Ben’s overly massaged narration to all those soft-rock tunes to the quizzical takes during direct-to-camera interviews. And while it might be enlightening, the producers’ hands are obviously pulling strings when, for example, Ben, Danielle and their two dads (which is how the kids refer to them) decide to go bra shopping together.

Beyond his family, Ben spends a fair amount of time in the second hour hanging out with his friends, which, in scripted terms, feels like a rather flat subplot when juxtaposed with scenes of Carly patiently outlining her plans for surgery to her confused son.

“The person that made me will not have the thing that made me,” Ben says, exhibiting a precocious mastery for talking around specifics. “That is weird.”

Coming on the heels of Discovery Life Channel’s “New Girls on the Block” and in advance of Caitlyn Jenner’s much-anticipated E! series, “I Am Cait,” “Becoming Us” does arrive amid a TV and cultural wave tackling the transgender issue, on a network that reaches a young and predominantly female audience with its scripted dramas. Given that, approaching the show through the children – certainly a legitimate aspect of the discussion – feels motivated more by demography than anything else.

While the title, “Becoming Us,” is meant to evoke a family in transition, the series resides at its own kind of crossroads: a serious project that aspires to foster greater understanding of and sensitivity toward the transgender community as well as those close to them, but which – by indulging in some of the bad habits endemic to this form of unscripted fare – itself remains a work in progress.

TV Review: 'Becoming Us'

(Series; ABC Family, Mon. June 8, 9 p.m.)

Production

Produced by Three Sisters and Ryan Seacrest Prods.

Crew

Executive producers, Ryan Seacrest, Eugene Young, Rabih Gholam, George Moll, Jennifer J. Duncan, Paul Barosse; co-executive producers, Victoria Zielinski, Noah Moskin; producers, Robert Norris Catto, Gordon Cassidy; supervising story producer, Bobbie Bencio; supervising editor, Christina Fontana. 60 MIN.

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  1. I am sickened that becoming U.S. TV show is on Abc family channel. This is not a healthy role model show for children. I was surprised to see Ryan Seacrest name associated with this filth you call a Family show. I am boycotting abc family. And all Ryan Seacrest shows. What happened to morals? I refuse to watch Man Bruce Jenner pretend he is a woman. What is next porn? You should be ashamed of yourselves for allowing this filth on TV to corrupt our children

  2. I am sickened that becoming U.S. TV show is on Abc family channel. This is not a healthy role model show for children. I was surprised to see Ryan Seacrest name associated with this filth you call a Family show. I am boycotting abc family. And all Ryan Seacrest shows. What happened to morals? I refuse to qTch. Man Bruce Jenner pretend he is a woman. What is next porn? You should be ashamed of yourselves for allowing this filth on TV to corrupt our children

  3. Christsmi21 says:

    I agree if God said you will be born in the flesh as a man then pow your a man if God said you will be born in the flesh as a woman then you are a woman! I know someone who loves this show because he wants to play God with his body( your going to go to the lake of fire where you will wail in pain andyour flesh is stripped away!) I know that I am man and my wife is a real woman call me a gay basher but it is wrong for people who want to transgender to another sexually! You people do not even think how this will affect your children what are any of you sissy lalas gonna do when youservice or even children end their lives cause you wanna be something other than what God intended you to be and another thing I hate the whole gay marriage thing I hope they ban it again and every gay marriage has to be nullified because my bible says Adam and Eve NOT Adam and Steve or Eve and Eva so I guess what my point is all you gay and lesbian and transgendered people do the world a huge favor and kill yourselves you’d be doing millions of people a great service

  4. Thanks for the article. ABC Go offers some great shows and of course the ABC live feature. If you don’t live in US, you can use UnoTelly or similar tools to access it in your country.

  5. Darc_e says:

    I thought this was a very intelligently scripted show playing with the reality show trope. Well I guess now there really is no real difference

  6. Gianni says:

    What’s with all the racist and bias and hateful comments here? Geez the OP is coming from a religious point of view/understanding and then the next person calls them a hater and to live under a rock? You talk about complexity, yep, you got it but also people are raised a certain way, it doesn’t mean they are hateful just because they have a different understanding from you. Not all religious people are “haters”… Try being tolerant of people with a diversified mind set. Just because they see things through another lens doesn’t mean they are wrong, bad, stupid, ignorant etc.Then what’s all the racist comments? White people share the world with a lot of other kinds of people…these people just happen to be so-called white. You talk about it being ‘scripted’ but then aren’t happy that non-white people weren’t ‘inserted’ into it? Really…the world is big and beautiful and there’s enough room for all kinds of people. Stop promoting racism and intolerance. Help people who don’t understand to understand things without hating them. How do you think Ben actually felt about ‘losing’ the identity of his “dad/son” relationship? It hurt him like hell.He might have gotten through it but some families never get over this kind of thing and the onus is always on the rest of the family to just get with it or get over it. It is forced acceptance and even though there is love, there is loss…And to the OP, listen you really don’t understand this very complex issue. You have a right to your opinion but maybe you can do some real research on the situation. The bottom line, is, wouldn’t God love him/her no matter what?

  7. I am deeply upset and disappointed in ABC Family for allowing themselves to do a show about sex change. If God wants you to be a man you will be a man. If God wants you to be a woman you will be a woman. I don’t care how confuse a person is no one has a right to mess with what God has created. I am deeply sorry that the people are so confuse that they don’t know what they are suppose to be. Go get some spiritual counseling please. I don’t want to hear none of t his nonsense about being a woman trapped in a man’s body that’s ridiculous. I will not be supporting changing what God created you t o be. I am first so sorry that the people in this show are so confused and i will be praying that you see the light. I mean no disrespect to the people they are but the simple question that i have is how can they justify messing with God’s creation. How can you dare challenge what he has done? I hope that Becoming Us does not last very long! It sends the wrong message and confuses people. Particularly young kids . I will not be watching the show and I will pray for you and good luck.

    • Such a naive way of thinking. So what if you’re born with both male and female genitalia? Just keep both? What if you’re born conjoined? Don’t try and fix it? I’m not transgender and I’m thankful I’m not because I wouldn’t want to have to live in a world with hateful, ignorant people like you. You don’t know everything. There are many contributing factors that make up ones gender identity. It’s way more complex than people who see things in black and white think. But that’s fine. Hide under your rock.

  8. Ushu says:

    It was a little scripted. Thus, boring as hell. Also, it felt too much white people problems, and lack a lot of multiculturalism.

    • Television is all about white people and their issues. That’s a fact. But we need to slow down on these types of shows until after the 2016 election. Cause this type of programming does the Hillary campaign zero good.

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