Friday, June 7, 2013

The Fosters

The Fosters
Episode 1: Pilot
By: Carlos Uribe

The Fosters is a show about an interracial married lesbian couple that raises their biological son and adopted kids. I will be covering this show weekly.

Spoilers Ahoy!

The foster system doesn't get a lot of love. It's a common theme amongst a lot of writers to rail about how messed up the system is. It brings up all the abusive parents, the ones who only get the kids for the free paycheck. Their treatment of the children can often be neglectful and abusive. The system rarely gets love but the Fosters is one that seeks nothing to change that perception despite it's title and premise. The pilot of the episode features an abusive foster father and the characters rail about how terrible the system is. Not a single character seems to realize that the two twins they've adopted came to them through this abusive system. The two lesbian mothers aren't just happy with the children they've adopted but they're willing to help out kids who need a place to stay. They are prime examples of when the system works but the show never points this out. It's like the series doesn't realize that the positive elements of the foster system is within the very premise of the show. It rails against the system without realizing that it should actually be a positive reinforcement. There's nothing wrong with having that abusive foster father but it should at least acknowledge that their presenting the good side of the foster system as well. The side that bring families together and where kids can be placed with loving foster parents. The Fosters is a new show that tries to present a rather nontraditional family. The premise of having two homosexual parents isn't completely new (Modern Family, The New Normal) but it's still fresh enough to present an alternate. It is new to present lesbian parents as I can't think of a recent show that has really portrayed them as protagonists. It helps that the Fosters largely avoids stereotyping it's lesbian characters. Modern Family and the New Normal might have done a lot at presenting this alternative lifestyle but they were reduced to stereotypes. The Fosters presents the lesbians as actual human beings rather than acting as how gay people are perceived to act. The two partners themselves are of different races-which might not be that big of a deal in today's world but still rare in Hollywood. That's not all because of the two adoptive twins that are Hispanic. This is truly a family that transcends every expectation and is more diverse than 99% of television shows on the air. It's been made that way and there's no doubt it plans to explore this.

The Fosters isn't a perfect show. I'm not just talking about it's oblivious behavior towards the foster system. The acting in this show has a significant weakness. A lot of the actors are up to the task but one of them isn't. The primary concern is Jake T. Austin. He's made it big in Wizards of Waverly Place where he got to play the not-too-brilliant Max. That role didn't really depend on any acting skills as all he had was to play dumb. The Fosters demands more than that. It actually expects him to perform a more complex character and he's not up to the challenge. He could potentially improve over time as he gets more comfortable with the role but he really sticks out on this show. He might want to stick with comedy projects in the future. I don't like to comment on actors because most of the time they are at least passable. The only time I complain is when a performance is so distracting that it actually detracts from the narrative. That was basically every single time Austin had to deliver a line. The show also has problems with it's feeling like this is a pilot. The beats don't completely work all the time and the chemistry between the characters feels a bit artificial. For a family show, the main characters need to feel like they're family. They do sometimes but at other times they don't. When they don't, that's when the emotional beats tend to fail. The plot itself was rather predictable. The whole situation with Callie's little brother was a bit too obvious. The climax itself didn't feel like it was like the life-and-death stakes that the situation called for. The series is just starting out so it was doubtful any of the characters were going to actually die. This is a diverse family drama, not Game of Thrones. The other emotional climax with Mariana realizing her mother only agreed to meet her for the money was pretty predictable as well. The Fosters will hopefully take the family on some original narratives in the future rather than the most obvious paths.

The strength of the characters fluctuates on this show. The two lesbian characters feel like they're normal people rather than gay stereotypes but they could still be fleshed out a bit. At this point, it's a bit hard to tell the difference between the personalities of Stef and Lena. I get one of them is a cop , the other is a vice-principal, and the obvious race relations but they seem like the same person other than that. The writers don't have to make them into different people but they should highlight the subtle differences between the two of them. Callie is basically the kind of person you would expect from someone who went to juvie for defending her brother from an abusive foster father: closed-off and guarded. Maia Mitchell does a good job with portraying the character's vulnerability despite her strong mask. The twins are the least defined characters. Jesus doesn't get much too do and Jake T. Austin fails terribly at portraying him. Mariana is starting to rebel but it's hard for us as audience to really get this if we don't see her how she used to be. The biological son, Jude, is basically the template good guy: a talented musician whose always willing to do the right thing. That character needs an edge if he wants to avoid being bland. The father of Brandon, Mike, is somewhat developed and he basically asks to be partnered with his ex-wife so he can be close to her and the kids or something. I'm not sure but there's apparently an anti-feminist message in there because Lena takes offense as a feminist. I don't really get it. What's wrong with wanting to protect to the people you love? At least she understands as Stef's wife. The final character is Brandon. We don't really get to know him but he was beaten up for trying on the dresses of the foster father's wife. He very well might be a transgendered character because this show wasn't diverse enough.

The Fosters is a show with a lot of promise. It seems serious about it's desire to portray race in modern America and promises to develop it's diverse characters to be fully-fledged human beings. It needs to work at developing a more original narrative but I'm sure a team of writers can help fix that. Jake T. Austin needs to take some acting classes before he threatens to bring the whole show down. The heart of the Fosters is in the right place. It might not be perfect yet but I am willing to give this show a chance. Who knows? This might be the next Switching At Birth. Only hopefully people will actually read these reviews.

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