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 this brilliant series is too mature for young teens. While sex is not explicit, it is discussed frequently, even among children. Adults often behave with mild to moderate inappropriateness, revealing confidences and making hurtful judgments, but they also show deep loyalty and caring. The show's large, extended family leaves little room for non-white characters, but one couple is interfaith (WASP and Jewish). Humor is both self-deprecating and pointed. One character plays mean pranks and films the results, while another makes insensitive remarks that are sometimes tolerated in deference to her age and sometimes rebuffed.
What's the story?
The mid-sized, middle class, Midwestern family in SONS & DAUGHTERS is an extended network of blended families that is both loving and dysfunctional. Episodes take place around family events: an anniversary party, a bowling night, a barbecue, a film festival. The central character is Cameron Walker (Fred Goss), a father of three who is in his second marriage, to Liz (Gillian Vigman). The rest of the family includes Cameron's managerial mother and wise stepfather, two married sisters and a single half sister, all of their spouses and some ex-spouses, one former boyfriend (the father of the unmarried half-sister's son), assorted kids, a dotty great aunt who speaks her mind carelessly, and more. When Cameron's teenaged son (a Goth prankster and the school pariah) is rejected by two beautiful girls, Cameron's nephew (a handsome, too-good-to-be-true athlete) shows loyalty to his Goth cousin. Cameron's stepfather, who has hinted that he's leaving Cameron's mother, also expresses deep love for her.
Is it any good?
The show itself is surprising -- it's innovative and hilarious. The dialogue is part scripted and part improvisational, seamlessly weaving both nuanced and laugh-out-loud moments into themes of family conflicts and bonds. Remarkably, the chuckles you hear will be your own -- there is no laugh track. Handheld cameras give the show the herky-jerk feel of a mockumentary.
Sons & Daughters is a stylistic cousin to Arrested Development, an award-winning, critically beloved series that has never quite found its audience. But where Arrested Development includes many themes of inappropriate adult behavior, Sons & Daughters shows people with foibles finding ways to be a family despite themselves and each other. It raises the bar on family comedies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how differences among family members can be the source of tension but also fill life with value. What is different about each of these characters, and what is the same? What do they value in each other? When they hurt each other, how do they get past that? And how do they respond when family members are hurt or in trouble? Also, how does the show help viewers track who's who among the many characters and where the action is taking place? Could this story be told with fewer characters? What makes this show different from other comedies about families?