Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Parents are thrilled about their teenage daughter moving out of the house, even if she’s going to a lousy college. And just when they’re about to celebrate being able to have sex whenever they want, faster than you can say, “Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am,” they find out the kid is … pregnant! Moreover, the parents of the boy — a Stanford-bound honor’s student — are as flummoxed by this as they are! Sold? If not, probably best to skip “Welcome to the Family,” a sitcom with all the depth of a knock-knock joke.
Granted, NBC tried planned pregnancies in 2011 (“Up All Night”) and ’12 (“The New Normal”), so unplanned was the obvious next step. And the network did lure solid talent to participate in this broadly played half-hour, with Mike O’Malley (fresh off “Glee”) as the father of the girl, Molly (Ella Rae Peck), and “Desperate Housewives’” Ricardo A. Chavira as the dad of her boyfriend, Junior (Joseph Haro).
Having already met not-so-cute — the two spar when O’Malley’s Dan goes to take a free lesson at the gym where Chavira’s Miguel trains people — the fathers are immediately at odds, separated by race and class distinctions, if joined in their mutual disappointment over their offspring. Their wives, meanwhile (Mary McCormack and Justina Machado, respectively), are more level-headed about things. Oh, those middle-aged men and their silly testosterone.
Writer Mike Sikowitz tries not to entirely dismiss teenage pregnancy as a punchline, but given the nature of the material it’s hard not to perceive things that way — trivializing an issue already not helped by MTV creating a cottage industry around reality-based versions “Teen Mom” and “16 & Pregnant.” Nor is there any discussion of terminating the pregnancy, less for political or advertising reasons, seemingly, than because doing so would also abort the show.
Frankly, there’s a pretty good chance that will happen regardless, with “Family” being the most nondescript addition to an NBC Thursday comedy block of questionable strength.
Mismatched in-laws are as old as the hills — although at least the Steinbergs and Fitzgeralds didn’t have to deal with Bernie knocking up Bridget before marrying her — which is why programmers keep returning to the concept. And the performers do deserve some credit for giving the exercise the old college try, even if Junior and Molly probably won’t get the chance.
Even so, “Welcome to the Family” offers precious little reason to roll out the welcome mat.