Why Almost Family Has Raised A Bit Of Controversy

Photo: Courtesy of Fox.
As more and more platforms start producing series of their, cable TV is forced to push the envelope, up the ante, and do everything they can to capture the attention of audiences with very divided attentions.
Jason Katim, who some may recognize as the creator of Parenthood, has a new series that’s definitely pushing the envelope. In fact, Fox's Almost Family pushes that envelope right into controversy, not for its content but for the premise of the entire thing.

What Is Almost Family About?

Based on an Australian show, Sisters, Almost Family is about an only child (Brittany Snow) that has her life completely turned upside-down when she finds out that her prize-winning, pioneering fertility doctor father, Dr. Bechley (Timothy Hutton). The hitch is that he has actually used his own sperm, as opposed to that of a chosen donor, to impregnate women without their consent and as such, he's conceive at least a hundred different children.
At the 2019 Television Critics Association (TCAs) summer press tour, Almost Family writer Annie Weisman told critics that the show was partly inspired by the wealth of information families are finding with new genetic testing resources like 23andme and Ancestry. “I felt like it was very much in the zeitgeist. It was very much in the experience of a lot of people we know,” she said, per Deadline. “It felt like the right time to tap into it and tell an unconventional family story through it.”
Snow’s character meets two of her “sisters” quite quickly, and hilarity attempts to ensue.

Why Are People Mad About Almost Family?

Unfortunately, hilarity can't actually ensue when Almost Family so brazenly ignores the issue of consent.
In the series, hundreds of women are secretly impregnated by a man to whom that they had given all of their trust. He took that trust and shattered it.
Almost Family is about the central three sisters of the series, but doesn't seem to leave much room for Hutton’s character and his reckoning. Weisman assured critics at the Summer TCAs that the doctor will face consequences as the series continues. “There’s going to be a very serious contending with what it meant to the people who didn’t consent to this behavior,” she said, per Deadline. “We’re also going to get into more complex motivations.” Still, per TV Guide, Weissman stopped short of condemning the actions of a man like Bechley, saying that his “singular quest” should be understood by audiences.
Some critics are not on board:
And while it's possible that the writers manage to find a way to punish Bechley for his actions, the series appears to be glossing over this massive violation, at least early on.
And that fact is even part of the series' defense. Also at the TCAs, Katims defended his show, per TV Guide, explaining that Almost Family is more about the sisters and the other siblings than Bechley’s misdeeds.
"It's ultimately a story about identity and a story about family… One of the things that I find so charming and beautiful about this story is that these three women, as adults, are discovering that they are sisters," he told critics, per TV Guide. "What really attracted me to this story was that, was telling this beautiful, unconventional family story in a way that we haven't seen before."
Unfortunately for many, this story is not fiction, and there are instances of real-life fertility doctors who are accused of doing specifically what Bechley did to their real-life patients — like Dr. Donald Cline in Indiana, as chronicled by The Atlantic.
And even for those who haven't personally experienced that level of betrayal, it's hard to shake an icky feeling that comes with a story that involves such a direct bodily violation of hundreds of women.

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