The First Family

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
The First Family TV Poster Image
Mediocre sitcom with strong family at its center.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The value of a tight-knit, happy family is central to the show, though some stereotypes about race and government workers is fodder for comedy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

William personifies the modern family man who strives to balance the needs of his wife and kids with the demands of his job. He and his wife have each other to lean on, and their relationship is a high point in this mediocre show. Extended members are a little more stereotypical, including a boisterous, man-hungry middle-age woman and a mischievous, free-spirited grandfather. Some supporting characters also represent slightly negative personas of generic political figures and government workers.

Violence
Sex

Some suggestive content and dialogue ("This is turning me on," for instance) between married partners who swap playful bedroom talk, embrace, and kiss. A middle-aged woman's quest for love means a lot of shameless flirting, and the kids/tweens tease each other about boyfriends and girlfriends.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The First Family centers on an African-American president and his extended family in the White House, but despite its obvious similarities to the Obamas, it isn't intended to parody them. What it does parody, to some degree, are the inner workings of the White House and the Oval Office, at times poking fun at the nature of various administrative positions like vice president and the secret service staff. The show focuses more on family dynamics than on the main character's presidency, and here viewers get to see a happy family unit with ingrained (if slightly gender-biased) roles and responsibilities, and some sweet moments between siblings and parents. Expect a few references to sexuality between married partners and some implied sexual gestures between single adults.

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What's the story?

THE FIRST FAMILY is the story of William Johnson (Christopher B. Duncan), 45th president of the United States and patriarch to the family with whom he shares his White House home. He may be the leader of the free world, but that doesn't guarantee infallibility when it comes to giving advice to his four kids or keeping the romance alive with his wife, Katherine (Kellita Smith). As if running a country and raising a family wasn't enough, coping with an assortment of relatives the same roof means there's never a dull moment in this household.

Is it any good?

Despite creator Byron Allen's assurance that the characters are entirely fictionalized, it's tough not to view The First Family as a comical commentary on the country's real-life first African-American president, especially given that some of Duncan's mannerisms bear a pretty strong resemblance to President Obama's. Perhaps adults can separate the fact from the fiction here, but that won't be the case for kids, who would leave the show with some pretty firm misconceptions about the inner workings of the upper levels of government thanks to what amounts to parodied characterizations of officials and staff members.

What this show does have going for it is a talented veteran cast that counts scene-stealers like Gladys Knight, Jackee Harry, John Witherspoon, and Marla Gibbs among its supporting members. Sadly, though, the lethargic writing and corny plots don't capitalize on the abilities of this stellar crew, leaving the audience expecting a lot more than it offers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the timeliness of this kind of show. If it isn't meant to reflect the Obama family, why do you think the creator put it out there in 2013? Would it be possible to write a show about an African-American president and not look to President Obama for ideas?

  • How does the issue of race play into the content? Is it ever a comedy point? Where is the distinction between comedy and hurtful stereotypes? Are we more forgiving of racial jokes if the teller is African-American than if he's white?

  • How do you define a "good" show? What qualities do you look for in a sitcom? A drama? What are some of your favorites?

TV details

For kids who love comedy

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