Not Much of Value in ABC's New Reality Show 'The Family'

BY TOM JICHA
SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

The contestants in "The Family" do not leave the grounds of a breathtaking Wellington mansion during the premiere of the latest unscripted ABC series. Just as well: these 10 relatives from the Greater New York area are the kind of people the swell sections of Palm Beach, Fla., strive to keep out. You would have to cast a wide net, which ABC undoubtedly did, to find a collection that fits the stereotype of crude, loud Noo Yawkers more than this bunch. You can take the people out of Brooklyn, but . . .

To a person, the family members, who are competing for a $1 million prize, are lacking in taste, manners and social graces, and are not the least bit self-conscious about it. They would be hard to take for a few minutes in a supermarket checkout line, let alone the nine weeks this show is scheduled to run. "Decorum is out the window with this group," observes a member of the household staff assigned to cater to their whims.

Although the old-money, seaside sections of Palm Beach are spotlighted in scene-setters and the region is described as "the playground of the famous and ultra rich," "The Family" is based several miles inland. However, the 20,000-square-foot mansion, which lies on 49 acres in polo country, is in keeping with the grand elegance of old Palm Beach.

The premiere is dominated by introductions. Uncle Mike, Aunt Donna and their son Anthony arrive first. Clearly, ABC doesn't regard this show as highly as "The Bachelor" or "Bachelorette." Forget stretch limos. These people are ferried from the airport in yellow cabs.

Uncle Mike apparently thinks he's auditioning for "The Sopranos." He anoints himself leader of the clan and says he's prepared to "smack around" anyone who challenges him.

Donna is a perfect mate. "I'm the bitch of the family," she boasts. "My claws are coming out." With a French chef preparing gourmet meals, she tries to take over the kitchen and demands he make spaghetti sauce.

Anthony describes himself as a playboy, almost an unerring tipoff that he's not. He should be thankful he's on "The Family" and not "The Price Is Right." Scanning the lavish home and grounds, he estimates the place must have cost a couple of hundred thousand.

Ed, the first cousin to appear, makes a strong impression with the declaration, "I'll lie, steal and cheat to win." Cousin Robert tops that. "Short of killing a baby, I think I could do anything to win $1 million." Amazingly, both are more highly regarded than Cousin Mike, who is branded a thug by the others.

One of the hooks of the show is that the family members are unaware of the secret "Board of Trustees" keeping score. It is composed entirely of the household staff -- the butler, the maids, the social secretary and (a bad omen for Aunt Donna) the chef.

Additional comic relief is provided by the social secretary, Ringo. Never has a name been so out of sync with a personality. Ringo is a prissy snob, with his nose so far up in the air, it's unthinkable he has ever felt the need for air freshener in his bathroom. "I have a low threshold for bad behavior," he acknowledges. He wants to disqualify one of the family members just because the player has tattoos.

After seeing this selfish bunch in action, "The Family" could wind up being more harmful to relationships than "Temptation Island."