by Thabisile Gumede
What an excellent start, I was gripped within the first 2 minutes of watching the excellently paced 1st episode. This show wants you interested right from the start but there’s no tricks or flashy style, just good solid drama. The acting is superb, especially from the 2 moms, it was nearly like watching a documentary of a family in action. I also remember thinking the music the show used was particularly appropriate and very complimentary to the visuals.
As the title implies, The Fosters is a show about a foster family but with a nice modern day twist – there are two moms instead of a mom and dad, the eldest son is the biological son of one of the moms from a previous marriage, and then there are the twins, a boy & girl, recently adopted by the family. This is a show concerned about all the people who fall outside of the traditional family existence, about the children who need another family to take them in. And they make it interesting! Really can’t emphasize this enough, there was obviously a great effort employed to combine the serious and complex issues with the need to entertain to tell the story, and they did brilliantly, i wasn’t bored for a second.
I have to thank the reviewer who summarized The Fosters as “filth”, i may not have ever watched it but after reading his/her review i felt it my public duty to actively counteract this act of douchebaggery by watching the show and then actually saying something objective somewhere in my review. I was so glad to see that 0 out of 12 people found his review useful (lol) but because this poorly-disguised rant against homosexuality was the featured user review, and also because there were only 2 reviews at time of writing, i felt it would be useful to be number 3 to let you guys know you won’t be wasting your time with this one 🙂
I really can’t think where they fell down, apart from a small complaint that ‘who was who’ was a little hard to follow at times, even though that by the end you know who is who. I’m taking a hard stance on this point and deducting one from the score.
Fabulous show – I didn’t expect this high quality of show on ABCfamily – but here it is. In addition to being fun and engaging to watch, the show consistently sends exactly the messages I want my children to hear: be kind to others, love each other, forgive mistakes, listen, laugh with those you love and success is made up of failures – so keep trying. It’s been a long time since TV had a smart, funny show portraying a family I can look up to. In addition, the show tackles complicated subjects with poise – and doesn’t give easy answers – just shows good people doing the best they can at the moment (step-families and co-parenting, struggles and joys of a bi-racial identity, complication of adolescent relationships, etc.) Will be tuning in all season! On another note, it was difficult to choose the age range for this show. The plot lines are more focused on older children (dating, identity, drugs, relational aggression between peers), yet the majority of the viewtime is on dealing with/solving these problems and not depicting too much on screen. And finally – a large number of negative ratings from parents recently showed up on this website – all focused on warning others of the dangers of watching these two loving woman raise a family. Be warned! Watching this show may shatter images you have of the gay “lifestyle.” Here’s a secret – it involves a lot of folding laundry and making peanut butter sandwiches.
The world can be a dark and scary place. Sometimes, the only remedy is an earnest television show about family and love and hope and also SO MUCH DRAMA. You may think you know that show, but if you’re not watching Freeform’s The Fosters, you know nothing.
Currently in its fourth season (and already renewed for season five!), The Fosters is easy to overlook. It’s on a network with a meaningless name. Its title is groan-inducing: a series about a foster family that’s called The Fosters? Really? At first glance, it looks like a TV show about teenagers, for teenagers. But if you’re a fan of quality family-ensemble dramas, shows that discuss relevant social issues in new and surprising ways, and/or falling in love with flawed, authentic characters and you haven’t yet found the joy of The Fosters, well, you’re missing out. Still not convinced? Here are five reasons why The Fosters is the family drama you should be watching.
1. It’s a Traditional Show That Feels Very Modern
When NBC’s hit drama This Is Us arrived and turned the country into a teary-eyed mess, it was quickly heralded as the successor to Parenthood, another earnest show about a large family that could make you laugh and weep in the span of minutes. Although This Is Us is great and does certainly call for that comparison, those of us who already met the Adams Fosters of San Diego had to groan a little. The show that fills the Parenthood-shaped hole in all of our hearts has been around for four seasons. The Fosters checks all the boxes of a traditional family drama: It’s a multigenerational show, it has complete control of your emotions, and there are lots and lots of elaborate house parties. But it flips the tradition on its head a bit, in order to be more reflective of today’s society. Those loving, frustrated parents? They’re a biracial lesbian couple (portrayed by Teri Polo and Sherri Saum, oozing chemistry in every scene). Those scrappy youngsters getting into trouble? They’re a mix of biological and adopted children, each with their own particular brand of baggage. And as we’ll discuss in a minute, the creators and writers aren’t afraid of less-than-traditional story lines.
Is it saccharine and melodramatic? Oh, yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. But what fan of family dramas doesn’t enjoy that, if even a little bit? If the genre has taught us anything, it’s that we should always be honest with ourselves. And also that every family has a child pursuing a music career. Hey! The Fosters has that too!
2. If You Miss Eric and Tami Taylor, You’ll Love Stef and Lena Adams Foster
Stef (Polo) and Lena (Saum) are the matriarchs of the Adams Foster clan and the obvious heart of The Fosters. On Friday Night Lights, the appeal of Eric and Tami Taylor was their authenticity as a couple. Like those FNL parents, Stef and Lena give great pep talks, have excellent hair, and aren’t around to simply reprimand children making bad choices. They are integral to the show and could also easily be inducted into the TV Marriages That Feel Like Real Marriages Hall of Fame. Stef and Lena disagree and they can be unreasonably stubborn, but they always, always have each other’s back in a crisis. Their relationship is the epitome of a partnership. If it’s the “teenage-ness” of The Fosters scares you off, give the Adams Foster ladies a try. Watching them weather whichever drama storm hits their family next is a real treat. Not to mention, they are hot as hell together.
3. It Doesn’t Shy Away From Controversial Issues
The premise of The Fosters alone should tell you that this show isn’t afraid to tackle some important, not always well-represented subject matter. It doesn’t end there: The show covers a staggering number of controversial issues. Some of these issues are handled in a regrettable way (can we please forget that a pair of foster siblings were “in love” and had sex?), but most are presented in a lovely, thought-provoking manner. Racism within biracial families, late-term abortions, the problems with the sex-offender’s list, a gay person confronting their own homophobia — the list goes on and on.
From depicting a trans teen attempting to survive in the foster-care system, to a frank conversation about nipple tattoos after a mastectomy, The Fosters is all about giving a voice to topics that other shows shy away from. The best part? It adeptly shapes each of these issues to specific story lines, so it doesn’t feel like you’re watching a Very Special Episode. Okay, sometimes they do feel a little Special, but we can forgive it because gosh darnit, those Adams Fosters are so easy to love.
4. You May Actually Learn Something!
Let’s be real: I’m not typically watching a family drama to learn something new. I’m watching to get the warm and fuzzies and then sob into my sofa. What if I told you The Fosters allows both of those things? Because guess what — it does. Sometimes I even feel like a better citizen of the world for having watched. They dive into subject matter in such interesting ways, even if you’ve heard of the topic, you’re sure to leave thinking about it in a new way. And I’m not just talking about the “taboo” subjects mentioned above. The sheer amount of detail you get about the foster system and adoption services in America is remarkable. I know that sentence sounds boring, but watching it play out in an emotional and engrossing story is not. I promise!
5. The Teens Act Like Real Teens
Don’t get me wrong, I was raised on teen dramas. I fell in love with Pacey Witter, I cried tears of joy when Seth and Summer finally got married, and I bought numerous headbands in an attempt to be more like Blair Waldorf. So I get being into shows about TV teens who do not act or look or speak like normal teens. That’s the whole fun of it. However, it’s also nice to watch a show about a family in which the teenagers deal with challenges that your average teenager would face. It’s good for us old-heads watching as much as it is for the youths. Sure, The Fosters deals with some big issues that some teens will never have to face — ahem, most of the Callie (Maia Mitchell) story lines — but for the most part, the Adams Foster teens are incredibly relatable. Even Brandon (David Lambert), who makes poor decisions at every single turn, feels like a real teenager because he is so infuriating. The Fosters proves that you don’t always need heightened melodrama or a thesaurus of a vocabulary to make teen stories compelling. I mean, being a teen is hard enough, people. Let them live their truths!
Thanks to the great care put into these honest portrayals, The Fosters makes its more traditional story lines feel just as important as the hot-button issues. Yes, watching Callie take on foster-care privatization is interesting and important, but so is watching Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) take on the patriarchy within her school robotics club. Or watching Mariana deal with those mean dance-team girls. Or Mariana … okay, you get the idea. Bless Mariana Adams Foster, holding it down for realistic teens across television.
This time around I am reviewing a new television show on ABC Family called The Fosters. This presents an interesting
As a former foster kid and magazine owner I’m pulling double duty, with two different objectives. The magazine owner
portion of my brain dictates that I must be open and objective, sure not to show bias or favoritism. It is my job to present
you with all the facts, allowing you to make your own judgments.
Then there is the foster kid part of my brain that is excited that there will be a TV show about foster care, worried that it
will not stay true to the actual experience and cynical that outsiders can tell the tale that I and the millions of other
products of care have known as our lives.
Because it will be tricky, I thought I would approach it by just telling you exactly what I thought. My PERSONAL opinion. I
have not yet had the need to voice my own thoughts in the pages of Foster Focus. With the exception of the Editor’s
Notes, I tend to keep my two cents to myself.
But in order to give you a fair take on this show without worrying about the delicacies of balancing work and personal
opinion I need to just write down exactly what pops into my head. So here goes nothin’.
I tend to hear about foster care related things a few weeks before the rest of the world knows. I had a good jump on
The Fosters. I heard the rumblings that Jennifer Lopez was looking to start a foster care related project. There were
reports that a project was being discussed. A few weeks later it was green lighted to begin the process of developing
a network television show. I’m not going to lie, I cringed a little.
To be fair, I cringe every time I hear about a foster care project. Hollywood rarely gets it right when it comes to foster
care. Occasionally they will get close, with embellishments. Most of the time they miss the mark completely. Once and
a while they will catch a winner. Movies like Blind Side, Antwone Fisher and Secondhand Lions springs to mind. But on
the whole foster care is used for sitcom fodder or a Law & Order backdrop.
Who knows why they miss, but they do. It’s either too overdramatized like Annie or too intense like Shameless. Maybe
too rosy and fairy tale-ish like Different Strokes. They are fine for what they are, but that isn’t reality.
So again, when I heard of a new project, I cringed a little. As I learned more I cringed a little less. Through Foster Care Alumni of America (FCAA) I was
brought into the inner workings of The Fosters.
Most foster care themed projects are derived from the writer’s imagination, with little to no input from the world of which they write. The Fosters were
reaching out to people and organizations in the foster care industry. A far different approach than most. They were gathering information about the
realities of care. That was promising. They developed an idea and set forth with casting.
A cast was in place and trailers were rolled out to the public. It is at this point that I am back in line with the rest of the world. I am watching the same
trailers/commercials. Seeing the same interviews with J. Lo and the cast I too, am getting exciting to see what they’ll do. Then I found out I would get to
watch the first episode before the rest of the world. Very cool perk of having a magazine.
Here’s your sneak peek of The Fosters through the eyes of a former foster kid.
Callie, played by newcomer Maia Mitchell, is a pretty but tough looking teenager, who we meet in the cell block of a juvenile detention center. Set to be
released, counselors scramble for a placement.
Right away you can see the show’s attempt to stay true to the plight of a foster youth. An institutional facility, harsh conditions and even with the end of her
stay in juvie in sight, there is still uncertainty as to where she will be next. That’s care. Uncertainty. A lot of people trying to help without the resources to
make it work.
The casting of Maia Mitchell as Callie is a brilliant move by the Producers of The Fosters. While I’m sure there were more established actresses vying for
the role, Mitchell’s best quality is that she is yet unknown. If you placed an actress familiar to viewers in that role more time would be spent critiquing her
wardrobe and acting skills than would be spent being sucked into the character. The other brilliance is someone having seen Mitchell’s ability to subtly play
such a delicate role. Foster youth are subdued, frightened and over-observant. All characteristics that Mitchell portrays masterfully. There were times when
you expected her to blurt out all that she’s been through. That’s not how a foster youth acts. Kids in care tend to keep the baggage internal. The Fosters
seem to understand that.
Through chance, Callie finds herself placed under the care of Lena Adams played by, Sherri Saum known for her work on In Treatment. Lena is a strong
but kind African American Vice-Principle at a charter school that sits alongside the ocean. The viewer can see the desire for Lena to help as many kids as
possible. She is portrayed in a very classy and deliberate way. Saum, a veteran of TV whose time on shows like Sunset Beach and One Life to Live is
evident in her time on screen. Saum’s presence on camera seems to anchor the show. Much the same way as the matriarch of a foster home is the
cornerstone of the house.
When Lena takes Callie home to her family, Callie begins to piece together the unique foster family of which she has become a part.
I got lucky when I was in care. One of the house rules was to eat dinner together as a family. Time spent at the dinner table is where I learned how to act
among others. It’s where I learned patience. It’s where I learned to share. I had these skills before care but they evaporated on the way to the first foster
home. The dinner table is essential to foster care success.
Huddled around the table Callie meets the rest of her new family. She is first introduced to her new foster brother and sister, a set of Latino twins named
Jesus and Mariana who were adopted from care.
If you have kids, you’ll know Jesus right away. Jesus is played by Jake T. Austin of Wizards of Waverly Place fame. If you aren’t familiar with Waverly you
have surely heard his voice as Diego from Go Diego Go! or in The Ant Bully, Rio and Everyone’s Hero. You can see the years of acting work as he takes
on the role of Jesus. Jesus is well adjusted but like most foster youth, there are issues that follow him. He’s sensible and street wise but lacks the scholastic
ability of his twin sister, Mariana.
Mariana is a smart girl who excels at school. Though she presents a porcelain image of herself to the outside, she has a world of secrets she hides from
her family. Mariana is played convincingly by Cierra Ramirez who you know from her work on The Secret Life of an American Teenager. Ramirez has a
crucial role on The Fosters. The Mariana character has the opportunity to go in any direction the writers choose. You can see the chance for Mariana to
be the breakout character. If she should head down the wrong or right path is of no consequence, this character will flourish in either scenario and Ramirez
has the acting chops to make either choice look flawless.
As Callie gets to know Lena, Jesus and Mariana, new faces enter the fray.
Now for the elephant in the room.
One of the reasons The Fosters have garnered so much attention is the lead role, played by Teri Polo.
You know Teri Polo. Unless you’ve been without movies or TV for the last 20 plus years, you have seen her. From Northern Exposure, Sports Night and
Felicity to The Practice, Man Up and The West Wing, Polo has been a mainstay on television. More than likely you remember her role in the Meet the
Parents franchise, as Robert DeNiro’s daughter.
Polo plays Stef Foster the married same sex partner to Saum’s Lena Adams character.
Catch your breath. I said the main couple in this show is a lesbian couple. Not what YOU might be used to but same sex couples make up a great deal of
the foster parents across the country.
For middle America the idea of two women raising a house full of teens may seem foreign, maybe wrong. It isn’t my place to endorse any lifestyle so I’ll
leave that up to you decide. I will tell you however, that this feels like a normal family. One could get lost citing shows with gay characters. How well they did,
what tone the shows took. The Fosters has a subtle tone throughout the entire show, a tone that does not change in reference to the relationship of Foster
and Adams. It isn’t forced on the viewer. Instead, much like reality, the relationship is just a part of the everyday life, like the dinner table.
Now that we’ve addressed who the parents are, let me finish introducing you and Callie to the rest of the cast.
Stef Foster is a police officer. Tough and practical she splits the rule of the house with Adams. The life of your average police officer is complex, adding
family to that equation only further complicates it, adding foster youth on top of all that can make for some great TV. Undoubtedly the worlds will collide.
Police spend a great deal of their time dealing with the child welfare industry. The two intersect constantly. As time progresses on the show more of the
realities of care are sure to come up.
Foster brings her biological son Brandon Foster, played by David Lambert, to the table. Brandon is a kind hearted piano prodigy. The kind of kid you’d like
to have as your own. He is a high school senior who is drawn to helping Callie. Brandon is portrayed with ease by Lambert who is best known for his time on
Disney XD’s Aaron Stone, though in my home he is known as the Den Brother from a Disney movie by the same name which my kids adore.
Brandon’s appearance opens the door for the first memorable line from Callie. “So you’re their real kid then?” A statement that is quickly refuted by Lena,
“they are all our real kids.”
Brandon’s father is also a police officer and Stef’s ex husband. Played by Danny Nucci, a veteran television actor, Mike Foster is very much a part of the
picture. When Stef’s partner takes a job in another city, Mike is quick to step up, asking to be her partner. A request that is granted, leading to even more
tension in the house.
Everyone in the home has their own trials and tribulations to deal with throughout the first episode. I don’t want to give away too much of the premiere
episode but I’ll try to give you a snapshot of the overall feel of the show.
Aesthetically the show is beautiful. Beaches, western skylines and cityscapes are shown throughout the first episode. The screen darkens as the storyline
dictates. The dialogue feels real, unforced. As I mentioned earlier, they seem to get it. Real issues were addressed, they were discussed they way I’ve
heard them discussed, the way social workers and foster parents talk to one another, the way the kids interact with their parents. It doesn’t have a staged
feel to it.
Callie is lost. Like the 400,000 other children across the USA that are in the foster care system, she needs help. She needs a family to call her own. She
needs a stable environment to grow and flourish. From the first meeting with Lena it is evident that the Foster’s could be that family.
But like most foster kids, Callie has baggage. You would assume that for the sake of television that her problems would be farfetched. That seems to be the
beauty of The Fosters; a subdued approach, close to reality. Callie’s baggage is the same baggage that nearly all foster youth share. She is closed off,
untrusting and damaged. That’s reality. That is a foster child.
Jesus and Mariana are confused about their birth parents. Conflicted, conscious not to hurt their adoptive parents. That’s reality. That is the plight of
Brandon attempts to be a normal kid with unique parents. That’s reality. That is the mission of thousands
of kids whose parents happen to be gay.
Lena and Stef attempt to run a household while maintaining their jobs. That’s reality. That’s what all parents,
regardless of sexual orientation have to deal with.
This show has made a conscious decision to stay true to life. I no longer feel the need to cringe.
Issues like sibling and parental attachment, abuse, rules, parental disappoint, limited options and trauma are
all addressed tactfully. The open dialogue will help educate those unfamiliar with foster care understand some
of the intricacies that people involved with care have to deal with.
If you talk to foster care alumni you’ll find that their main concern is the reality of care. Will The Fosters
be able to represent what so many who have been in care remember as their reality. Locked refrigerators
and bedroom doors, rationed clothing allowances, blame for anything out of sorts, these are some of the
realities of care. Granted, these are extremes but they are still some products of care’s realities. It seems
to me that these topics will come to light through Stef and Mike’s time on the beat as cops. Attachments
of all kinds will most certainly be funneled out through the kids’ characters. And the issues that foster and
adoptive parents face will definitely come to light through Stef and Lena’s experiences.
All of this is great news for foster care. The more viewers this show can attract, the more opportunity for
outsiders to get involved. I don’t need to tell you about the need for more foster parents and
The obvious hurdle for this show as it relates to its success is the relationship of Stef Foster and Lena Adams. Will America look beyond the marriage of
two women? Will they be able to deal with the idea that two people, any two people, would open their home to kids that don’t have one? Can America look
beyond their personal beliefs and frequent a show that talks to the issue of foster care?
If people will just watch the show, overlook the parents’ relationship if it doesn’t appeal to them and absorb what the show is; a different kind of family show
than you are used to. This is a show about foster care. How foster care affects kids, parents, social workers, police officers and foster parents. I’d like to
repeat that line. This is a show about foster care.
So my review is this. The Fosters is a fantastic show full of potential. It speaks to the issues of foster care in a way that is real, yet not preachy. It has
characters that fill the screen with true to life performances that captivate the viewer. I implore you to watch the premiere episode Monday, June 3 at
9pm/8c on ABC Family. If you agree with my assessment, set your DVR, make it a part of your TV viewing schedule. This is essential viewing for anyone
involved with foster care.