A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Family Reunion is a sitcom about a family that uproots from the Pacific Northwest to live closer to extended family in Georgia. Much fun is had at the expense of the culture shock that ensues, especially as it affects teenage Jade (Talia Jackson), who most resents the change and has the hardest time adjusting to the South's slower pace. The content raises matters of both past and present black experience, including touching on the civil rights movement and Black Lives Matter, for instance. There's also a scene in which it's implied that Jade's grandmother uses a belt to spank her as punishment for an infraction. Expect some sexual innuendo and partial undress in bathroom scenes (for example, a man dances for his wife wearing only a towel) and some mild language like "damn," "hell," and "butt."
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What's the story?
FAMILY REUNION opens as the McKellan family arrives in dad Moz's (Anthony Alabi) hometown of Columbus, Georgia, for a family get-together. Reuniting with Moz's parents, M'Dear (Loretta Devine) and Jeb (Richard Roundtree), is joyful for everyone except sullen teenager Jade (Talia Jackson), who laments the fact that their trip causes her to miss the year's most epic party back in Seattle. As the family visit plays out, though, Moz and his wife, Cocoa (Tia Mowry-Hardrict), notice the new surroundings having a positive effect on Jade, Shaka (Isaiah Russell-Bailey), Mazzi (Cameron J. Wright), and Ami (Jordyn Raya James), so much so that they decide on the spot to pick up roots and move from Seattle to Columbus now that Moz's NFL career is over.
Is it any good?
This sitcom espouses strong family values even as it struggles to overcome a vacillating combination of dated Southern culture clichés and politically inspired topics like climate change and what it means to be "woke." M'Dear is as stereotypical a character as they come, a deep-South matriarch who's opinionated, deeply religious, fiercely protective of her family, and, of course, the world's best cook. Swinging wildly in the other direction, on one of her first social outings, Jade encounters a bunch of teens who ridicule her for not knowing the history of the Black Panthers and, by extension, the modern fallout of the black experience of the South. Two young kids lament the effect of plastic straws on the environment while they play at the park, but the idea of physical punishment (with a belt, no less) for a kid's misbehavior is prominent and seemingly endorsed in one scene. Jade's lighter skin -- an anomaly in her family -- becomes a topic of conversation; she's alternately teased by her brother, celebrated as unique and beautiful by her father, and the source of a quip about someday being helpful in hailing a cab by her grandmother. The result is content that's hard to pin down and does little to define the show itself.
On the other hand, Family Reunion illustrates the joyful (most of the time, that is) side of multigenerational family relationships. There's so much to like in the grandparents' interactions with the kids, the idea of raising a family with a village, and the interplay between Moz and Cocoa and their elders. As the McKellans adjust to a slower life pace, small-town living, and extended family all around, they discover the experience changes them individually and as a group, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Family Reunion presents family relationships. Are they always happy and pleasant? How does physical proximity affect how family members get along? In general, do TV shows and movies paint a pretty picture of how relatives relate to each other?
One of this show's recurring themes is adaptation to change. How do difficult circumstances challenge your ability to persevere? Who in this series is able to do so successfully?
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