In the US: Thursdays, 9.30/8.30c, CBS
With diversity being the touchstone topic of the fall season, I think it’s instructive to have a look at what CBS produces when it tries to do diversity (that’s CBS, the home of Big Bang Theory, Two Broke Girls, Two and a Half Men et al).
Let’s start with some clues: The McCarthys is set in Boston. That’s your first bit of diversity right there - it’s not New York or Los Angeles. And it’s all about a great big Irish Catholic family, who love JFK and the Celtics and all live on the same block. Can you feel the diversity yet?
Well, one of the sons - there are three sons, one daughter (how’s that for diversity?) - is gay. Ooh. Yes, on CBS. And you know he’s gay because he likes The Sound of Music, his best friend is his mum and he doesn’t like sports, unlike his straight brothers and straight sister. Yes, his sister plays basketball with her brothers but being gay means not even knowing after 20+ years in this family that the Celtics are the ones in green.
Unfortunately, gay son (he needs no name other than that) is heading off to Rhode Island (shock! horror! away from Boston) to be a counsellor at a private school and be part of the vibrant Rhode Island gay scene and maybe meet someone, since it’s kind of hard to do that with his stifling family. But his family don’t want him to leave, so they organise him a big gay party so he can meet other gay men (or men who look gay… or lesbians who look like men).
That doesn’t work. But then his dad, who is the coach of a high school basketball team, discovers a potential new recruit’s lesbian mother is only going to allow her son to sign if the school is down with the diversity thing - so the dad tells her that his gay son is actually the basketball team’s assistant coach.
Laughs? There were few and even the best of them were based on stereotypes (“Vibrant gay community? Aren’t all gay communities vibrant?”). But only a few.
There are a few points where the humour doesn’t involve stereotypes and it even tries to subvert stereotypes at times - gay son actually turns out to have a natural talent for basketball. But only a few, amidst the fighting, candle-lighting, loud-mouthed, basketball-loving Irish, flamboyant, sexless gay men, masculine lesbians - and non-existent non-white characters.
I do hope CBS gets better with practice…
A few trivia points to leave you with
- The show has premiered to the worst ratings of the season. It’s doomed.
- It was originally intended to be a single camera comedy, but that made it ‘too dark’.
- Gay son is played by Tyler “son of John” Ritter, Laurie Metcalf (Roseanne) plays the mother
- Apart from Jimmy Dunn and Joey McIntyre, who have the benefit of coming from Massachusetts, not one member of the cast, main or supporting, deemed it necessary to effect a Boston accent.
Here’s a trailer. It’s literally everything of note in the first episode, so that should save you some time.