Home sweet home: Take a trip through time with ‘The Kids Are Al­right’

Richmond Times-Dispatch Weekend - - CHANNELS - BY FRAN­CIS BABIN

“They’re try­ing to hold on to the val­ues in this house, and the out­side world keeps com­ing in.” - Tim Doyle

The new prime-time tele­vi­sion sea­son is fi­nally here and, as usual, it fea­tures plenty of re­turn­ing hits, fresh takes on old fa­vorites, am­bi­tious dra­mas and a healthy dose of pe­riod pieces. On Tues­day, Oct. 16, take a trip through time and make your­self at home with the Cleary fam­ily as they wit­ness the dawn of a new era in the pre­miere of “The Kids Are Al­right” on ABC.

With the ad­di­tion of the 1970sset “The Kids Are Al­right” to the lineup, ABC has dou­bled down on sin­gle-cam­era, en­sem­ble­cast pe­riod come­dies. “Kids” marks the net­work’s third past-set se­ries (with a fourth, the ‘90s-set “Schooled,” on its way) af­ter “The Gold­bergs” (1980s) and “Fresh off the Boat” (1990s).

It’s hard to blame the al­pha­bet net­work for want­ing to take an­other trip down mem­ory lane. As a so­ci­ety, we’re con­stantly look­ing to the past, be it for in­spi­ra­tion, for es­capism or in or­der to bet­ter un­der­stand the present. Plus, the fash­ion, mu­sic and tech of days gone by are al­ways sources of en­ter­tain­ment and in­ter­est. This fas­ci­na­tion with the past has led Hol­ly­wood to be dom­i­nated by nos­tal­gia, with both the big screen and the small churn­ing out pe­riod piece af­ter pe­riod piece.

ABC struck gold with “The Gold­bergs” and “Fresh off the Boat,” and much like these come­dies, “The Kids Are Al­right” is based on the child­hood of its cre­ator. “Kids” fol­lows the ups and downs of Mike (Michael Cudlitz, “The Walk­ing Dead”) and Peggy Cleary (Mary McCor­mack, “In Plain Sight”) and their eight wild boys in 1970s sub­ur­ban Los An­ge­les.

Cre­ator/writer/ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Tim Doyle (“Last Man Stand­ing”) grew up in a large, tra­di­tional Ir­ish Catholic fam­ily. Af­ter re­gal­ing ABC ex­ec­u­tives with hi­lar­i­ous tales of his youth, Doyle was given the op­por­tu­nity to present these sto­ries to the masses. At New York’s an­nual Pa­leyFest, he talked at length about want­ing to prop­erly doc­u­ment the era and to “show au­di­ences a be­liev­able de­pic­tion of fam­ily life dur­ing that pe­riod.”

Be­yond Doyle’s writ­ing and pro­duc­ing du­ties, he also nar­rates in voiceover as an older Timmy, the fifth of eight chil­dren and com­pletely ig­nored. The younger ver­sion of Timmy is played by the won­der­ful up-and­comer Jack Gore (“Bil­lions”).

Grow­ing up in the 1970s has pro­vided Doyle with won­der­ful sto­ries, but the decade wasn’t all roses. It was a tur­bu­lent time in Amer­ica, and it’s the per­fect set­ting for a fam­ily com­edy. As Bob Dy­lan fa­mously said, “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” and af­ter this decade, the Clearys — and the coun­try — will never be the same.

Doyle dis­cussed this ear­lier this year at the ATX Tele­vi­sion Fes­ti­val in Austin, Texas, say­ing, “They’re try­ing to hold on to the val­ues in this house, and the out­side world keeps com­ing in.”

Rais­ing boys is no pic­nic. Rais­ing eight boys in a work­ing-class neigh­bor­hood is a mon­u­men­tal chal­lenge. With Mike and Peggy of­ten work­ing long hours and do­ing ev­ery­thing in their power to pro­vide for an im­mense fam­ily, the gag­gle of ram­bunc­tious boys are of­ten left to their own de­vices and spend their days with lit­tle su­per­vi­sion.

The se­ries will con­tin­u­ously ex­plore the re­la­tion­ship be­tween sib­lings at home and fo­cus on the dy­namic be­tween the broth­ers and be­tween kids and par­ents. We’ll fol­low var­i­ous group­ings of the boys as they strike out on ad­ven­tures to­gether or have heated ex­changes with their mother. Many of these ex­changes and ar­gu­ments take place dur­ing chaotic fam­ily din­ners, which are de­scribed as the glue of the en­sem­ble com­edy.

With 10 peo­ple, three bed­rooms and one bath­room, the Cleary house­hold is not for the weak. Tune in to the pre­miere of the new sit­com, air­ing Tues­day Oct. 16, on ABC.

Mary McCor­mack stars in “The Kids Are Al­right”

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