My choices of shows to watch for this week’s column were a hunt for a creepy serial killer, a military drama and a dysfunctional family comedy. Wanting something lighthearted, I went with the comedy. I made the wrong choice.
For the record, I had time to watch one of the others, but after seeing the first episode of Freeform’s new comedy, “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay,” I kind of felt a responsibility to warn you that the show is not the quirky, sweet, family comedy the trailer would lead you to believe. Because not only is it a show you may not want to share with your kids, it’s also just not that funny.
“Okay” creator/writer/executive producer Josh Thomas, a critically acclaimed Australian comedian, is Nicholas, a neurotic twenty-something from Australia who comes to the U.S. to visit his dad and two half-sisters, Genevieve (Maeve Press) and Matilda (Kayla Cromer), who is on the autism spectrum. When Nicholas’ dad reveals that he’s dying. Nicholas volunteers to stay and become the girls’ guardian. In the premiere, the trio navigates the funeral, and the girls navigate high school in their new reality without their dad.
There are bright spots to be found with “Okay,” and all of them involve Press and Cromer. Their high school experiences are extremely realistic — and often painful to watch — and they portray them beautifully. Cromer, who is on the autism spectrum herself, is especially good.
But Press and Cromer aren’t enough to overcome the unlikability of the main character, Nicholas. Whining about finding out your father is dying is somewhat understandable. Whining because you can’t mess around with your boyfriend because your dying father insists on sticking around to talk about the future of his family is a whole other story.
I actually laughed when Nicholas tells his dad he’s hurt when his dad doesn’t automatically make him the girls’ guardian. I mean, can you blame him?
In order for a show like this to work, you have to be able to root for the person who steps up to take care of the family, and Nicholas’ annoying qualities makes that way too hard. Also, because the show jumps to the dad’s death so quickly, we don’t get to see Nicholas make the transition from ambivalent slacker to caring son and brother, so his immediate desire to help two girls he barely knows comes out of nowhere.
I must also warn you that even though “Okay” presents itself as a show you can enjoy with your family, it is not. Both the first and second episodes open with extremely graphic sexual situations and language — especially during the opening scene of episode two. So, if you do decide to give “Okay” a shot, make sure the kids are in another room until you can see it for yourself.
“Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” premieres at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 16, with back-to-back episodes on Freeform.