REVIEW: ABC Family's 'The Fosters' is Redefining Family

The new ABC Family series The Fosters is about a rather unusual family — and the fact that it has two moms is, well, one of its least unusual aspects.
By: Trudy Ring
May 31 2013 8:00 AM

The new ABC Family series The Fosters is about a rather unusual family — and the fact that it has two moms is, well, one of its least unusual aspects.

The hour-long drama, premiering Monday, is about lesbian couple Stef Foster and Lena Adams and their truly modern, multiethnic blended family: Brandon, Stef’s biological son from a previous marriage; Mariana and Jesus, their adopted twins, who initially came into the family as foster children; and a new, supposedly temporary foster placement, Callie, a survivor of abuse who’s just out of juvenile detention.

All the kids are in their teens, an age that has ample potential for drama anyway, but these young people’s circumstances offer more potential than most. Mariana and Jesus are being given the opportunity to meet their birth mother, but they’re not sure they want to. And Callie’s situation, the details of which are gradually revealed in the pilot episode, is even more complicated than it first appears.

The show treats Stef and Lena’s relationship as completely normal, which should be the norm in TV and movies, but it’s still refreshing to see. It undoubtedly helps that the series was created by out actor Peter Paige, of Queer as Folk fame, and his writing partner Brad Bredeweg; they’re also writers and executive producers of The Fosters, with LGBT ally Jennifer Lopez joining in the latter role as well. J. Lo has said the show was inspired partly by her late, beloved lesbian aunt.

Police officer Stef (Teri Polo) and school administrator Lena (Sherri Saum) are attractive, intelligent, affectionate with each other, and conscientious parents to their children, without being sickeningly perfect. They’re portrayed just as any straight couple would be. They have a strong bond, and they’re supportive of one another, but they have their differences and their insecurities. For instance, Stef is a little upset with Lena’s unilateral decision to bring Callie into their home. Meanwhile, Stef’s new partner on the police beat is her ex-husband, Mike (Danny Nucci), and Lena’s a bit worried about how that will work out.

Because the women both have good jobs (and because, after all, it’s TV), they have a lovely, spacious home in an idyllic setting (San Diego; the charter high school where Lena is vice principal is right on the beach). But the script makes clear that they have some realistic financial concerns, as Brandon, a gifted musician, is trying to win a scholarship to help with his college expenses.

On the whole, the show is well-written, offering an earnest treatment of serious issues without being didactic, and well-acted by a talented ensemble. Polo (Meet the Parents, The West Wing) and Saum (In Treatment, Gossip Girl) make an appealing couple. The kids are uniformly fine — David Lambert as Brandon, the oldest, a well-grounded type who seems to be something of a third parent to his siblings; Jake T. Austin as Jesus; Cierra Ramirez as Mariana; and Maia Mitchell as Callie. Nucci, as Stef’s apparently amicably parted ex, looks to be a good addition to the cast.

Paige and Bredeweg have said they intend for the show to raise awareness of the need for foster parenting, definitely a worthy cause, and of the important efforts of social workers on behalf of kids who need good homes. There’s nothing not to love about that.

Also in the “nothing not to love” category is the fact that the show is on a network founded by Pat Robertson (although he sold it long ago, and it’s now part of the Disney empire) and that it’s raised the ire of such hysterical right-wing groups as One Million Moms and the Media Resource Center. “The network has evolved into a poster child for gay activism,” says a screed on the MRC’s website. Like that’s a bad thing?

The Fosters premieres Monday, June 3, at 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific on ABC Family.

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