Join us as we review the Fox drama, Almost Family, on The Pilot Podcast. We follow Julia Bechley as she discovers and has to contend with the major scale fraud her father committed through his fertility clinic. What would you do if you discovered you had dozens of siblings? Would you try to build a relationship with them?
When it is revealed that fertility doctor Leon Bechley (Timothy Hutton) had used his own sperm to conceive at least 100 children throughout his career, Julia Bechley (Brittany Snow) unites with two of her half siblings—including childhood friend Edie Palmer (Megalyn Echikunwoke), and retired Olympic athlete Roxy Doyle (Emily Osment)—as they deal with issues that have been affecting their lives.
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Welcome to The Pilot Podcast!
Where we watch the pilot episodes of TV shows and recap shows to answer your question: Should I watch this?
My name is Mitu.
And my name is BJ
And this week we're watching the fox dramedy Almost Family.
Is it a comedy?
I mean, they basically make it into a sitcom.
It was quite an interesting take on a very serious subject. So how about you introduce our listeners to the premise
So in this show, we are introduced to Julia Bechley who is played by Brittany Snow and she is head of communications, assistant, right hand person catch-all for her father Leon Bechley played by Timothy Hutton, who runs a famous fertility clinic in New York. The central premise of the show is you come to find out that Dr. Bechley used his own sperm to conceive at least 100 people throughout his career and so the reason that the show is called Almost Family of course, is that she learns that she has all of these half siblings including potentially a romantic interest. Two of her half siblings include her friend that she had a falling out with Edie Palmer played by Megalyn Echikunwoke and retired Olympic athlete Roxy Doyle played by Emily Osment. How did you feel about this first episode?
This was a really cool setup for introducing a diverse cast of characters. Unlike you, I was unfamiliar with the Australian series Sisters, which this is based off of. So this was a new premise to me.
I loved that show.
And we'll do some comparisons since you watch that whole series correct?
Mm hmm. Pretty recently. I mean, it's just one season on Netflix/
It's the full series. But I think it's a really interesting idea, because I'm sure a lot of couples who are using IVF or in vitro fertilization are probably wondering about the science behind it, like what is this doctor putting inside of me? Because honestly, you can't test the cells yourself. They just give you the embryo and you go on good faith that it really is made up of the genetic material that you assumed it is or hoped it is/
And the show is loosely based on the real story of Dr. Bertold Paul Wiesner, who was an Austrian physiologist who apparently biologically fathered an estimated 600 offspring by donating sperm used by his wife, an obstetrician named Mary Barton.
Yeah, he did throughout like his entire career, I believe.
He was churning out his own children.
So now we go back to almost family where poor Julia has to deal with living with what her father's done. So I thought that was really interesting, because we've talked about this before with Prodigal Son, about the family members of the people who have committed these crimes and seeing what type of trauma they're going to when the media typically focuses on the victims and the victims' families.
Totally. She's a victim like everyone else, but as a representative of the clinic as the communications director, she bears the brunt of the public fallout.
Yeah, she's in the wrong place at the wrong time. And now she has to field questions from the media. People are looking to her for answers on how to handle this situation. And that is completely stressful. And on top of that, now, she asked a question things like one of her past relationships with the man who is probably her half sibling
Oof. They handle that twist differently on Sisters, the Australian show, so no spoilers, but I'm curious about how they take it here.
Why not just throw in and incest plotline as well, when you're already doing all of this?
I was surprised that they threw that in to compare both shows the opening scene for this show is very close to the opening scene for Sisters, the Australian show, and they in sisters play with the idea of the lead finding out that one of her romantic interests might be her half sibling, and I thought that they would not include that on an American broadcast comedy, but they went there. So I'm curious to see how they resolve it because on Sisters, it was a messy, messy thing.
I really don't think they're marketing it as a comedy.
We can actually get into that. One thing I noticed on this version of the show versus Sisters the Australian version is like with a lot of shows we've reviewed so far, they're trying to find comedy in these dark moments. But the beginning of this show to me from the music to the timing of the dialogue, it really felt like it was paced like a sitcom. Like what did my zany dad get up to? That's how I felt.
I can see that. Unfortunately, I do think that they were really trying to add weight to it. And I think where that failed the most was with Emily Osment's character of Roxy. I think she came across as a more not necessarily comedic character. But I don't think the weight of her situation hit hard in a way that the writers probably intended. So she is a retired Olympic athlete, she's going through substance abuse issues, she still lives with her parents who shelter her from the world. And she's actually very excited about this news, because now she can grow her family and meet her new siblings. But I think her struggles don't come across as sad, but more pathetic. And I don't think that was the really the intention behind that character.
Oh, I actually disagree. I thought that she did a really great portrayal of that character. I felt like the character is pathetic, and that you're supposed to feel sad for her. But you're also supposed to be frustrated with how she's acting because she's so childlike. In the Australian show, she is the host of a children's TV show. And so she has a bit of arrested development where she never has to grow up. And in the same way on the American show, she is a past famous Olympic athlete. So you get frozen in time when you're someone who was so famous and so successful that young that I thought that she portrayed that character really well, because I think that she experienced some arrested development as well.
I'm sure Emily could relate to it. But I think we'll have to agree to disagree. I don't think the gravity came across for me.
She was the character that I took the comedy from the most.
I don't think she's supposed to be funny.
They're going for jokes on the show. There can be a larger discussion on whether it's there should be jokes on the show, period.
Like if there should be funny moments, but of the people who had to find the funny I thought she did a good job. But overall, I thought it was weird, especially at the beginning of the show across all of the characters, the pacing of it felt very sitcom-y. And if you were to actually find out that a respected physician in your community fathered all of these children, violated all of these families, especially these women who were inseminated with material that did not belong to the person that they thought it belonged to, then I don't think I would laugh. I would maybe see the headline and do one of those shock laughs like you can't believe what's happening, but I don't know that I would then continue they giggle.
It was a how they paced out the reveals and how they just jumped to the next reaction where I think it should have settled a little bit more and I think some of that has to do with them trying to put too much in the pilot. Even if you focus on Leon Bechley, the fertility doctor his arc in this single episode was dramatic.
Like a rollercoaster ride.
Yeah, doing pretty high getting an award to then there's news being leaked by a source to him breaking down to him having a heart attack him being in the hospital having to talk to his daughter about these hard truths to then being arrested. And it just seemed like while all of that makes sense for a story, it needed more time for each of those situations to develop and resonate more.
One thing I do like about this version versus the Australian version is that Leon Bechley is of sound, mind and body. So in the Australian version, Julia's character is taking care of her dying father. And so even when he has moments of lucidity, they take advantage of it to get information about his life, but also his crimes, but also she's trying to have final moments with her father. Whereas on this show, he seems to be healthy.
And so I wonder if they're going to do more taking him to task because he committed a major violation. Another thing that they do on this show versus in the Australian show is they legally and from a narrative framing more fully examine the scope of what he did beyond just convincing families that he was successful in getting them pregnant. They examine more the violation of what he did. And then also, they examine a bit further his ego that led into it,
I kind of wish they had a balance between that because this version makes it very easy for Julia to break away. But it sounds like in the Australian version, she still has more of that connection to her father that she's struggling with where she wants those last moments, but then has to deal with all of his actions and the repercussions.
That's true. In the Australian version, she's literally his caretaker. And so despite all of this happening, he's still her father, she still wants to take care of him and do right by him in his last moments, no matter what he's done. Whereas in the American version, he's healthy, she's not by his bedside, and so it's easier for her to break away. But the interesting thing on the show is that it takes a lot to get her to even confront the idea that he could have done this.
She's really devoted to her father,
They definitely have a very close relationship. And I'm sure she's afraid to acknowledge anything that could take that away, even though you can't retroactively take away those memories. But I'm assuming she doesn't want anything that would tarnish that, so she's holding off on the truth for as long as she can.
How do you feel about her relationship with her half siblings, the main two?
So it seems like the main focus will be on her relationships with Edie and Roxy. With Roxy. I think she sees her as like a fun little sister. I don't know that actual age difference, but I feel like she takes on the more mature sister in that pairing.
Definitely a maternal role.
With Edie, I think that's really interesting, because they clearly have a lot of history together, but a lot of animosity towards each other. And we also see that Julia gets along really well with Edie's husband. So that could also be another plotline. Are there any more differences between the three main siblings and their Australian counterparts that stood out to you?
No. It was actually really close to the pilot episode of the Australian version of Sisters, at least the one that I saw on Netflix. But the seeds are there for a divergent path, most clearly in her relationship with her father, like we discussed, because he's healthy on this show and capable of having longer conversations about why he did this versus on the Australian show - he was a frail, dying man.
What did you think of the fertility centers interim solution of simply giving out DNA test kits?
I don't know what else you would do.
Well, there's been no talk so far. financial compensation for any of the suffering this is going to cause to the families.
Oh, yeah. I don't know that the fertility clinic would be the one to come up with that. But I think that they would just be bracing themselves for the ill class action lawsuit.
If they're smart, they'll try and pay people off now before it gets even bigger.
If you were in Julia's situation, or really...
I won't entertain that hypothetical.
Listen to the question. If you were in Julia's situation, or any of the three main half siblings, do you think you'd be willing to develop a relationship with your half siblings?
I don't get why they would care about each other. Because I wouldn't.
I think that I would be so nervous about getting my own self together, that I would have to have a pretty high level of delusion and denial to take a step out of my mess to try to be there for my half siblings. I would be a wreck. Versus on this show, we're going to watch Julia, Edie and Roxy come together as they help each other confront their personal demons. So Edie is having marital issues, Roxy is having issues with substance use and just generally not growing up, and of course Julia has issues with everything and dozens of potential siblings. And so they're going to band together, which is nice, and they're going to help each other. But I can't imagine how you could be in a place to help other people.
It's interesting that of these three that we spend so much time with, it doesn't really seem like they needed much time to process this giant piece of life changing news that's dropped.
No, they just came together real fast, real easy.
Yeah, they question their parents for like, half a second. And then they're like, Okay, I got other things I'm worried about.
Even on Charmed, they tease it out a bit. And that is a surreal supernatural show.
Yet on this hyper realistic show, based on something that actually happened, these people were like, Op! sounds good. That's my dad. These are my sisters.
And then they were actually excited. Certain characters confirm the results of their DNA tests. And they're like, awesome. I have siblings now
Or that one guy that was like, my dad is half a foot shorter than I am. And as soon as I looked at Dr. Bechley, I figured, Yeah, makes sense.
He said this so calmly.
That's a wild reaction.
Like, oh, this explains everything. This is the answer. I always wanted. I'm cool with it.
Also, tall people can make short people in short, people can make tall people.
Yeah, but if he looks more like the doctor and then his own dad... [Both laugh]
Beej, any other thoughts? Are you ready to rate this show?
Let's head into our rating.
What would you give Fox's Almost Family
I would rate Almost Family: would not watch again.
Oh, you started that so positively that I was like, Oh, is he gonna watch more episodes?
And no, I'm not.
You know, this is a very interesting premise. Like I said, I was not familiar with the Australian version. So this was a new idea for a TV show to me, but it didn't hook me I had some problems with the portrayal of the characters and the gravity of the storyline with the actions of the characters. And so I'm just gonna have to pass. I think there's probably better ways of going about this story than watching the show. What do you think?
I'm with you, I really wanted to like it. But I don't know that I can recommend it to our listeners. I just wasn't in love with this pilot episode. I thought Emily Osment was great. But otherwise, I wasn't super into it. What I think I'm going to do and what I would recommend to our listeners is one of course, watch the Australian version. It's available on Netflix, and it's fabulous. And I think it handles the gravity of what they're covering on the show better. And because it's Netflix, there's a little more freedom to speak more clearly about what happened versus on broadcast television. There was a lot of euphemism used in this episode. And then two I'm probably going to read a couple episode recaps in the coming weeks to see if the story gets more interesting. And depending on those recaps, I'll watch more episodes.
Right now I'm looking like a probably wouldn't watch again.
With the possibility might come back.
Mhm, depending on the recaps. Because I really liked the Australian version.
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai