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TV Review: Look for stereotypes, not the ties that bind, in reality 'The Family'

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Italian-American groups that protest HBO's "The Sopranos" ought to set their sights on ABC's "The Family" after tonight's premiere.

A "reality" series that combines "The Sopranos" and "Upstairs, Downstairs," "The Family" is edited in a way that does more to perpetuate Italian-American stereotypes than any "Sopranos" episode.

"The Family"

When: 10 tonight on ABC.

Host: George Hamilton


From the opening credits -- a little bit of "Dallas" followed by the show's "Sopranos"-esque logo -- to the character introductions, there's a Mob theme threaded throughout.

The premise of this latest televised debasement is that 10 members of a family are brought together in a Florida mansion to compete for $1 million, plotting and scheming against one another all the way.

Patriarch Michael, a sales manager from New Jersey (natch), is introduced with "Godfather"-esque music playing in the background. Later in the hour, other family members appear to fear him and defer to him, because, well, he's the boss, if you know what I mean.

His wife, Donna, calls herself "the b---- of the family," and it's unlikely viewers will disagree. Their son, Anthony, is a self-described playboy.

Hey, at least these folks have a healthy sense of self-awareness.

There's a secret Board of Trustees -- made up of the household staff, unbeknownst to the players -- that votes each week on who's out of the running for the fortune.

"Decorum is out the window with this group," says the fussy social secretary.

Unlike on other reality shows, those "voted out" each week will remain in the mansion. The last family member standing will get the entire fortune, with the option to share it with his or her relatives.

Perpetually tanned George Hamilton, gorging himself on the chintz scenery, hosts this entertaining hour.

As with a Twinkie, there's no value in "The Family," and certainly no family values, but it is a kick in the voyeuristic way that's becoming overly familiar to prime-time viewers.

Rob Owen can be reached at rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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