A seamy premise leads to a story of newfound friendship.
“When I was a kid, I got myself into serious trouble with the nuns. They told me, ‘Only God can create life.’ I said, ‘That’s not true. My dad creates life. He’s gotten hundreds of women pregnant.’” So says Julia Bechley at a presentation for her father, famed in-vitro fertilization scientist Leon Bechley. Unfortunately, Julia was more right than she knew; without their knowledge or consent, Leon used his own sperm to impregnate his clients. When the story emerges in the press, Julia must deal not only with her own feelings of betrayal, but also with two of the many people who share her father as a parent: her life-long frenemy and romantic rival, criminal lawyer Edie Palmer, and former Olympic gymnast and failed celebrity Roxy Doyle. With their lives shattered by the revelation of their shared parentage, the three women move in together and try to support one another as they become (almost) family.
Based both on the similarly-premised Australian television series Sisters, and on several real-life instances of IVF malfeasance, Almost Family is a “modern spin on what ‘family’ means today,” said series producers Leslye Headland and Jeni Mulein at a Paley Center panel. The producers were adamant that the series’ seamy subject matter isn’t the point; while admitting that Almost Family will follow Leon Bechley’s arrest and trial, “that’s not the real focus of the show,” said the producers. Rather, Bechley’s unethical actions are merely a plot backdrop to the real story, a character drama about three disparate strangers realizing they are connecting, and learning to become friends, then family.
However, while the showmakers’ intentions may be to explore the world of female friendship, the program’s focus on sex cannot be ignored. Ironically for a show about the negative consequences of women being impregnated by someone they don’t know, none of the the three lead characters demonstrate any reluctance in having sex with someone they’ve just met. In the first episode’s opening minutes Julia, who has just met a man for a luncheon first date, tells him, “I have an event I have to get to, and I would like to have sex. I’d like to have it with you, but I can have it with someone else here.” Cut to the two having sex in a public restroom. (An additional queasy factor is included when, after her father’s scandal breaks, Julia learns that the man’s mother was a patient at her father’s clinic – meaning Julia just had sex with her own half-brother.) Similarly, much of the time spent introducing Edie focuses on her husband’s frustration with their lack of a sex life…a situation remedied when Edie apparently has sex with a lesbian co-worker. Together with the show’s profanity (including “ass,” “bitch,” and “douchebag”), it’s frequent discussion of IVF issues and procedures, and the incessant mentions of sex belie the program’s alleged focus on the women’s friendship. It remains to be seen whether in later episodes the program will continue to center on sexual issues, or will indeed lean more into exploring how three strangers become friends.
Almost Family premieres Wednesday, October 2 at 9:00 p.m. ET on Fox.