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TV Series Review

Who is Kyle XY? That question appeared in TV, billboard, magazine and movie ads promoting ABC Family's original series. But if you've tuned into this soap-meets-sci-fi offering (either on ABC Family or on ABC), you know the real mystery: What is Kyle? An alien? A genetic freak? A human guinea pig for some clandestine corporation?

Kyle (Matt Dallas) appears to be an average 16-year-old. But having emerged naked from a forest one day covered in slime, he initially doesn't speak a word or understand the simplest human actions or emotions. This virtual newborn's otherworldly intelligence allows him to learn a language overnight, become an Olympic-caliber swimmer after a single lesson and fix a computer server in seconds. To add to the mystery, Kyle doesn't have a belly button, and he can go weeks without sleep.

Seattle social worker/psychologist Nicole Trager takes Kyle in and, with the eventual support of her family, is determined to find out where he came from and what event could've been so traumatic that it has seemingly wiped his memory of anything prior to waking up in the woods. Kyle, meanwhile, soaks in everyday life at the Trager household with wide-eyed fascination.

Some of those revelations have been handled inappropriately. After Kyle gets an erection at a public swimming pool, his sex-ed talk from the family's porn-obsessed teen son involves a stack of girlie mags and an explanation of masturbation. (Mom finds the stash but lets it slide.) Daughter Lori isn't any better. A rebellious older teen, she's determined to lose both her "prude" label and her virginity ("It's not like I'm waiting for true love"). She sneaks eager guys into her bedroom and lies to cover up.

With such "role models" for Mr. Inexplicable, Kyle XY has broached issues ranging from alcohol to bullying, all while trying to make a few moral points about things such as honesty and appreciating the moment. Yet these admirable (albeit muddled) messages usually come packaged with more sex talk and a steady dose of mild language.

Welcome to the new ABC Family, where according to president Paul Lee, "Family drama is alive and well, and people are rediscovering it. ... We feel we're doing our mandate here. ... Families today are different from the traditional television family, and we're not in an Ozzie & Harriet world." Indeed, we're not, as Kyle XY reminds us. But it's doubtful viewers were expecting this supposedly family-oriented channel to contribute to that slide.

Episodes Reviewed: June 30, July 7, 12, 14, 2006


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