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 The Real O'Neals centers on an Irish-Catholic family in the Chicago suburbs who begin airing their darkest secrets in the spirit of honesty: One son is anorexic, another son is gay, the daughter is a common criminal, and the parents are getting a divorce. Some strong language is bleeped for comedic effect, but you'll hear other words such as "hell," "pissed," "damn," "horny," and "crap." Characters also make jokes about premarital sex, teen pregnancy, and smoking pot, and one of the major plot points revolves around the middle child's realization that he'd rather hook up with guys than his own girlfriend.
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What's the story?
Micromanaging mother of three Eileen O'Neal (Martha Plimpton) has big plans for her Irish-Catholic family, and she runs their lives accordingly. But as it turns out, THE REAL O'NEALS aren't as squeaky-clean as she wants everyone to think they are: Her oldest (Matt Shively) is an anorexic athlete, her middle child (Noah Galvin) is gay, her youngest (Bebe Wood) is a career criminal -- and as for the parents? Well, Eileen and her husband, Pat (Jay R. Ferguson), are getting a divorce. Looks like it's time to get real.
Is it any good?
This ABC sitcom's title suggests this is a clan you can really connect with, and on some levels, that's true. But fair warning: The O'Neals and their problems won’t feel relatable to every family. It's not that the action largely centers on the teen protagonist's realization that he's gay; that's actually a story line that's increasingly common. It's more that the family's Irish-Catholic quirks won't be as familiar -- or as funny -- to those viewers who haven't experienced them firsthand.
The series is based on the real-life experiences of writer and LGBT activist Dan Savage, who famously launched the "It Gets Better" project for gay teens and logs credits as the show's executive producer. But while Savage's own views on sex and religion have been labeled by some as controversial, this fictionalized take on his Catholic adolescence is surprisingly conventional when you strip it down to its core elements.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Real O'Neals' central messages of openness and honesty. How honest are you with your family, and how honest are your parents with you? What are the pros and cons of sharing earth-shattering secrets? Why is it so tempting to hide important truths from those we love?
How relatable are the O'Neals, and how do they measure up as role models? Do their problems appeal to a wide range of viewers? Who's the intended audience for this show?
How accurately does The Real O'Neals address the challenges of coming out as a gay teen in the 21st century? Does the sitcom format make too much light of a serious topic, or does it merely inject some humor into what can be a high-stress situation?
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