Don’t expect a stereotype-filled sitcom about an LOL-worthy culture clash in NBC’s new comedy “Welcome to the Family,” about a white family and a Latino family brought together by an accidental teen pregnancy. This is a show about the differences between two families, period, says creator Mike Sikowitz.
“It was more important to just do a show that I feel reflects Los Angeles or anywhere in the country today,” Sikowitz told reporters while promoting the show at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Los Angeles. “I was just trying to bring two different families together.”
Sikowitz says this TV “Family” was inspired by a shopping trip with his wife and his three-year-old child when he chatted up another dad of a toddler while their kids played in the store. “I realized this is a city of four million people,” he says. “There are so many people who are so different than I am right here in the same city. We’ve had totally different experiences growing up, me and this guy [who was Latino], but we’re just two dads of two little kids. I started to think, what if this guy and I became friends? Could we become friends? How would that work?”
While minorities make up a sizable percentage of the American population, they’re still underrepresented on television. Says series star Justina Machado (“ER,” “Six Feet Under”), who plays Lisette Hernandez, the mother of the show’s teen father: “We as Latinos have to speak up more, and we have to say we want to see ourselves up there more. It’s true — we don’t exist as much as we’d like to see ourselves [on TV].”
Watch the Pilot Episode of “Welcome to the Family” Now on xfinityTV:
Adds Ricardo Chavira (“Desperate Housewives“), who plays Machado’s husband Miguel, “When we exist, we exist within the realm of specific stereotypes. Can we get away from those? You can’t always escape them. There are some of those aspects even in this show, but that’s not he foundation of what this family is. It’s just merely a texture to the story. There are so many other things that are so much more universal in terms of family and young love and things like that that are far more prominent in this show than the aspect of culture.”
Old ’70s sitcoms such as “All in the Family” that drew punchlines from cultural differences might have similar roots to “Welcome to the Family,” but they’re different shows at the core. “While ‘All in the Family’ was one of my favorite shows, it revolved around the fact that it was a real clash of cultures,” Sikowitz says. “Archie Bunker was a lovable bigot, but he was a bigot. In 2013, in this show set in Los Angeles, I don’t think any of us have an interest in playing ‘I don’t like this guy because he’s other than me’ or ‘I don’t understand why these people do what they do.’”
He continues, “This is more than just about a clash, not of cultures, but of personalities and of families. While I think we draw from those shows in that they’re family shows and there’s nice conflict at the center, I think we’re making a real distinction here because I don’t think that would fly today.”
The sitcom co-stars Mike O’Malley (“Glee”) and Mary McCormack (“In Plain Sight”) as the other set of parents also struggling to cope with the baby bombshell dropped by their expecting and engaged teenagers, Molly (Ella Rae Peck, “Gossip Girl”) and Junior (Joseph Haro, “Glee”).
“Welcome to the Family” premieres Oct. 3 and will air Thursdays at 8:30/9:30c on NBC.