The McCarthys

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
The McCarthys TV Poster Image
Mediocre show mines sexual identity, family for laughs.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The show presents family as a source of both great strength and great frustration. Family bonds are often complicated by pressure to conform to parents' standards, even when the kids in question are grown adults. Stereotypes manifest in many of the characters, from a dumb jock to a gay man with no sports sense, but the story attempts to challenge them in small ways as well. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ronnie is self-assured and doesn't let others' impressions influence him in negative ways. His family members are tolerant of his differences but don't fully embrace them. 

Violence
Sex

Innuendo and wink-wink moments are played for laughs, as when a man says, "Ladies love it when a guy squeezes into something tight." Premarital sex and unplanned pregnancy have few consequences and generally are cast in a positive light. Homosexuality is a common talking point, as the main character is gay. 

Language

"Hell," plus name-calling such as "suck," "loser," "fat bastard," "idiot," and "piece of garbage." A character refers to a homosexual woman as "a les."

Consumerism

Sports references to Boston-based teams such as the Celtics and the Red Sox and mention of current entertainment such as The Good Wife and The Closer.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink mixed alcohol and beer in bars and while watching TV. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The McCarthys is told from the perspective of a gay adult character who's a misfit in his otherwise cookie-cutter Bostonian family. His sexuality is a frequent source of laughs, and his family members' responses run the gamut of stereotypes, from ignorance to overcompensation. Expect some sexual innuendo and jokes that poke fun at mis-impressions of homosexuality and references to premarital sex and a character's unplanned pregnancy. Name-calling ("loser," "fat bastard," "idiot") and some strong language such as "hell" are of concern. On the upside, the McCarthy family is a devoted, if imperfect, bunch, and there are some fleeting moments of heartwarming connections.

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What's the story?

THE MCCARTHYS centers on Ronny McCarthy (Tyler Ritter), a high school guidance counselor who's an anomaly in his Boston-grown family for two reasons: He's gay, and he knows little -- and cares even less -- about sports, despite his family members' obsession with every Boston athletic franchise. So it's little wonder that he starts thinking of expanding his horizons beyond the city block that separates him from his parents (Laurie Metcalf and Jack McGee) and his siblings: acerbic Gerard (Joey McIntyre), dim Sean (Jimmy Dunn), and aimless Jackie (Kelen Coleman). But when a surprising offer arises from his dad, Ronny rethinks the value in giving up his proximity to his meddlesome, but ultimately devoted, family.

Is it any good?

This series mines common comedy threads such as overbearing parents and the generation gap for its laughs, but in so doing, it falls back on too many clichés and feels predictable and stale. Ronny's sexuality is an unnecessarily dominant plot point, which makes the related stereotypes (particularly the one about gay guys and their athletic insufficiencies) even more prominent than they otherwise would be. The characters around him are similarly typecast: the judgmental father, the coddling but manipulative mother, the high school jock who hasn't grown up, and so on.

Of course, you don't have to be the Cleavers to represent modern family values, and for better or worse, the McCarthys are a bonded group that pulls together when the chips are down. In particular, Ronny's relationship with his mom is touching, if a bit overwhelming at times. But while teens might see the humor in the stereotypes, they're also filled with cumbersome mixed messages. The bottom line? There are better options out there for family sitcoms than The McCarthys that don't come with so much baggage. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The McCarthys presents being gay. Where do the stereotypes come from? Are they at all fair? Do you think they're offensive? Where do you think the line exists between a stereotype being funny and hurtful? 

  • Teens: Have you ever felt compelled to look or act a certain way to fit in with a particular group of people? How does changing yourself to meet someone else's needs affect your self-esteem? Is peer pressure a concern for you? 

  • To what degree has the family structure changed in recent decades? Can we define a family now? Should that matter? Is this progression a reflection of a more accepting society, or is it something different?

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