TV Series Family Reunion: Season 1 - Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

Family Reunion: Season 1 – Recap, Review (with Spoilers)

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Family Reunion tries to tap into the vibe classic late 90s/00s sitcoms had and tries to modernize the feel to, sometimes, mixed results.


Network
Netflix
Creator(s)Meg DeLoatch
Genre(s)Family, Comedy
Good If You Like
  • Sitcom Focused On Black Families & The Black Experience
  • Jokes About Southern Culture & Church Culture
  • A Mixture Of Episodes Made To Be Purely Silly As Well As Serious Episode Dealing With Topics Like Police Harassment
  • A Mixed Focus On The Kids, Adults, And Older Members OF The Cast
Isn’t For You If YouDon’t Like Family Comedies
Noted Cast
Moses “Moz”Anthony Alabi
CocoaTia Mowry-Hardict
AmiJordyn Raya James
MazziCameron J. Wright
ShakaIsaiah Russell-Bailey
JadeTalia Jackson
AmeliaLoretta Devine
ElvisLance Alexander
DanielWarren Burke
GraysonJalyn Emil Hall
MaybelleTelma Hopkins
JebRichard Roundtree
EricTempsett Bledsoe
KatrinaJaleel White

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Summary

After a family reunion, Moses “Moz,” a famous football player, decides with his wife Cocoa to move his family from Seattle to Columbus, Georgia. For the majority of his family, from youngest Ami, to his two boys Mazzi and Shaka, the change is welcomed. However, for his oldest daughter Jade, and Cocoa, the change is an adjustment. For Cocoa, she has to deal with Moz’s mother, Amelia, also known as M’dear, who is a religious woman who believed in an old school, spare the rod spoil the child, upbringing. Which is the opposite of what Cocoa believes. Then for Jade, being that she is fair and not the most connected to Black culture, both within the family and outside of it, she is teased to arguably bullied.

And over the time period the family spends in Columbus, they all live under Amelia’s roof and are forced to deal with the culture clash. Which, while manageable, comes to a head when the police get involved.

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. Where was Jeb most of the season? Traveling?

Highlights

Topics Focused On – 90

Whether it is Amelia speaking on the family history, going back generations, one of Shaka’s friends dealing with being on the brink of poverty, or the topic of police harassment, when the show gets serious it usually hits the right tone. One that doesn’t bring on a massive sense of woe, and a tone change, but respects the challenge the character goes through.

What Cocoa & Moz Bring To The Show – 85

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What you come to appreciate about Cocoa and Moz is how they are a team. Maybe not the best team in trivia games, but when it comes to their friendship, relationship, and roles as parents, they are a united front. Moving to Columbus wasn’t treated as something Moz sprang up, and Cocoa dealt with – we’re presented the idea it is a mutual decision. Heck, even in more comical episodes, like episode 6, we see them make concessions, poke fun at one another, and present the idea there is more to them than being parents.

Moz and Mazzi embracing one another.

But, focusing on them as parents, even though there is a need to question if they are consistent, you have to admire their approach to parenting. Whether it is the children choosing their own punishments, trying to keep communication open, or how quickly they support or defend them. One example is, when Jade was being teased by her brother, and grandmother, over her skin tone, Moz jumps in to attempt to shut that down. Also, when Mazzi feels that Moz, and his brother Daniel, are teasing him for being into baking, among other things, we see Moz apologize for hurting his son’s feelings for it was leading him down the path of toxic masculinity.

As for Cocoa’s contributions? While Moz may get more memorable moments with the kids, Cocoa and Amelia play off one another so well. For, as noted, with Cocoa not being bohemian in her upbringing, but experiencing far more openness than Moz or Amelia experienced, there are clashes. Nothing violent or shouting matches, this isn’t that kind of show, but back and forths. Be it over religion, child-rearing, how Cocoa dresses, and other things. All of which is cordial, in a way, yet also gives the show varying points of view from two very different generations.

It’s Very Comical – 86

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Despite generally leaning more towards comedy which has innuendo, can be gross, and is often physical, Family Reunion strangely appealed to me. Usually with one-liners, often done by Amelia, but there are some situations, often awkward ones, which could appeal to those who may not be the most into family appropriate comedy.

Low Points

Jade – 69

Jade put in a form of Black face.

This is nothing against the actress, but more so feeling that what could have been done with Jade wasn’t. For example, with Jade being fair-skinned and not aware of Black culture, it could have opened up how different Black culture is across America. Jade is from Seattle, and she could have presented what it means to be Black from Seattle as opposed to being Black and from Columbus. Also, her skin tone is a consistent theme, the only of the social topics brought up, besides religion and how someone raises their kids, and it doesn’t evolve. It just becomes a thing that I’m sure many fair-skinned Black women go through, but so comes the conflict of this being a show mostly focused on light-skinned Black woman, with the only exception being Amelia.

So, with that in mind, it presents the rare opportunity to show what light-skinned people go through in terms of teasing. Yet, since the show doesn’t also address beauty standards that fair-skinned people gain privilege from, it seems imbalanced. Add in her ending the season in a love triangle, and her feeling pushed to almost feel like a lead character, and while Jade won’t lead you to stop watching the show, she may get on your nerves.

Binge Watching This Is Challenging – 68

Family Reunion is the kind of show which clearly wasn’t written to be binged. Like most shows, it could easily be on another network not dedicated to dropping whole seasons at once. Which becomes a problem. For one, nothing really pushes you to watch another episode, beyond finishing what you started. Also, the show gives you serious fatigue – especially if family comedies aren’t your favorite things to watch.

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Personally, by episode 4 or 5, I had to take a break since the flaws of the show were starting to become a bit much. Also, what was funny at one time, possibly endearing, was becoming corny or an annoyance I couldn’t easily shake off.

The Domestic Violence Topic In Episode 9 – 65

While Daniel is portrayed to be foolish, maybe a loafer, it seemed odd that this show had made light of him being a victim of domestic abuse in episode 9. Yet, with him being a male who was the victim of it, I guess that’s funny?

On The Fence

How Church Culture Is Used – 75

Amelia (M'Dear) in her Sunday's best.
Amelia aka M’dear (Loretta Devine)

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Here is the thing, Family Reunion is both critical of church culture, and the members who we often can find part of the church, yet also recognizes how it presents a sense of community and a moral foundation. However, there might be times when you feel there is far more criticism than praise, if not a sense the show more so wishes to lampoon people who go to church than to show them as three-dimensional people.

These feelings may especially come from Amelia who does sometimes warp the word of the bible to fit her needs, and can be seen as very judgmental. Which doesn’t lead to comeuppance moments, but there are many times when she may feel more like a caricature than a person. Much less, she, alongside her sister Maybelle, may feel pushed to represent why many don’t go to church – period – or not anymore.

Elvis – 79

Speaking of unfair portrayals, while Amelia deals with what some will consider an unfair representation of church folk, there is no denying Elvis represents southern stereotypes. Which is a shame since Elvis is a really lovable character. He has an entrepreneurial spirit, a wonderful sense of confidence, but often comes off like a joke. One that is usually always smiling, and a bit dopey, and it makes the fact he isn’t really fleshed out much unfortunate.

Some Topics & Characters You’ll Wish Were More Consistent Or Lasted Beyond An Episode – 74

But he isn’t alone. Family Reunion doesn’t necessarily utilize its characters, or the topics it brings up, to the fullest. One example being one of Elvis’ friends Grayson. This character is seen in only one episode and holds so much untapped potential. For one, the kid is poor, or is portrayed that way, and this pushes Shaka to recognize how good he has it. Also, it gives Amelia a chance to show how she, as First Lady, and the church, help the community. Yet, the boy appears for one single episode and never again.

Other examples include Daniel making a huge splash in episode one and then not showing up again until damn near the end of the season. Not to forget, sometimes it seems characters, or actors, are on the show just because they were available, like Tempsett Bledsoe and Jaleel White in the season finale. Bringing on the feeling that, the show never felt satisfied with its main cast or the foundation. So it kept seeking out that certain something, beyond having an all-Black writers room, to give people something to talk about.

Eric (Jaleel White) and Katrina (Tempsett Bledsoe) thanking Cocoa and Moz for coming to trivia night.
Eric (Jaleel White) and Katrina (Tempsett Bledsoe)

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Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)

With Netflix being known to let its originals thrive or fail based on their own accord, Family Reunion seemingly took the opportunity to fail a little bit too far. Which isn’t to say it is a bad show, but more so a show that felt like it spent the entire season trying to figure out what works. Does it want to be a light version of The Carmichael Show, or like a late 90s/early 00s sitcom that has it where every episode has a “Special episode” vibe to it? When it comes to Jade, do they want her to come off as the lead, with a strong supporting cast behind her, or make this an ensemble cast?

Then, when it came to everyone else, so comes the question if they were supposed to just established for future seasons or just part of world-building what Columbus, Georgia is like? And I could go on and on, but it all leads up to why this is worth sticking around for. At this point, one can only hope Family Reunion has come to understand what works and is gearing to balance out the way new and old characters are handled. Not just so everyone is equally featured, but so it doesn’t seem to be just running through a laundry list of topics.  For there is potential here. It’s just, did the people behind the show experience too much leeway and can they tighten the ship?

Has Another Season Been Confirmed?

While it no longer takes Netflix two to three months to make a decision, when it comes to renewals, enthusiastic ones, they are often quick. So if we don’t hear anything after one or two months, this might be as dead as that Reverend Run show.

7/24 Update

20 episodes were filmed so this is only part 1 of the show.

Thoughts On Another Season

Title Card - Netflix’s Family Reunion

All this show really needs to do is tighten up. It has a lot of good ideas, the problem is that the first season tried to express far too many at once. However, as seen with the “Remember Black Elvis” episode, when it just focuses on one thing, it does wonders. It’s just when they try to make Jade prominent, and then throw scraps to her siblings things get iffy. So as long as they scale back, make this more of an ensemble show, and make arcs for the social topics, rather than nearly one per episode, Family Reunion should be good.

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Oh, and do something with Jade’s hair. People say it is a wig, but it makes me think while they got all these Black people on the writing staff they don’t have any in the hair department.

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Amari Allahhttps://wherever-i-look.com
I started Wherever I Look back in 2011 and from movies, TV, the occasional book, play, and Broadway show, have been trying to bridge the gap between a critic and an avid lover of various forms of media.

Follow Wherever I Look on Twitter, Like us on Facebook and Subscribe to the YouTube Channel.

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