Which is great, because it looks like NBC put some stakes on this show. In terms of shooting alone, this thing looks swanky. Maybe I've been watching too many crappy CBS sitcoms this year, but Welcome to the Family looks like one of the most lovely produced programs on TV--all believable settings and natural tones. It lends an air of warm realism, giving credence to the admittedly cornball nature of some plots.
The plots themselves aren't too bad though. Even if they are, they're being saved by the acting. Going into this pilot, I thought I would have to duck under blankets and cover my ears every time Mike O'Malley's Dan Yoder was onscreen. Great, I thought. Another yelling dad. But to my surprise, this is a bellowy patriarch that works! His banter with wife Caroline and daughter Molly is sweet, sincere, and funny. When he announces to his dental partner and secretary that Molly is pregnant, the secretary coos her congratulations. Like a western gunslinger, Dan rapidly fires a 'nope' in her direction. He gazes expectantly for his partner's response of 'I'm sorry,' and shoves a 'Yes. That's what you say' in the rejected wounds of the secretary. The entire scene plays out in a matter of seconds, and it's played perfectly.
It's that kind of interplay that made this an enjoyable watch. These people are a shinier, cleaner, more quick-footed version of us. Insane things are happening to them, but they way they respond makes us wish, just a little, that we could be a more like them. That we could be like Molly, a complete airhead but utterly confident. That we could be as scrubbed and earnest as Junior. That we could have Caroline's humor, or the assurance of Junior's father Chuey.
These characters are somehow complex and interesting already. And though I didn't laugh out loud, I sure did smile the entire pilot.
It's a shame that Welcome to the Family the only thing standing between me and an early return of Community. If it weren't for that, I'd be wholeheartedly rooting for it. As it is, however, I can only hope that Sean Saves the World thoroughly tanks, so that the Yoders and the Rodriguezs have a chance to stretch out their season.