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TV Series Review

And you thought your family was difficult to glue together.

After by-the-book detective Allison McLean puts her brother, Tim, behind bars, she and her husband, Matt, take in Tim's teenagers, raising them in the absence of their rehab-confined mother. Against Tim's forcefully expressed wishes. To the horror of his kids. And to the chagrin of their own children.

It's a situation that will make future Thanksgiving dinners … awkward.

All in the Fractured Family

Ties That Bind is the first original scripted show to arrive on UP. Created by Charmed producer Sheryl J. Anderson, its writers and directors include Dean Batali (That '70s Show), Peter Hume (Charmed), Sean McNamara (Soul Surfer) and Michael Scott (Cedar Cove). What they've concocted is part crime procedural, part family drama. Meaning that Allison spends her workdays bringing criminals to justice and her evenings trying to hold her family together.

Neither job is particularly easy. Rarely do criminals walk up to Allison or her partner, , and say, "Hey, I think I've had my fill of crime now. Feel free to take me in anytime." No, it takes work, courage and an occasional dash of home-baked sensitivity to nab these malcontents—some of whom aren't as much hardened criminals as they are ordinary folks who made some really poor decisions.

The same strategies, of course, are needed at home to nab some peace and unity.

The Same Yet So Different

This is not a show that has any immediate Emmy aspirations. It is not a show that longs to be referenced in the same sentence as such current critical darlings as The Americans or House of Cards. And, frankly, in an age in which critical acclaim always seems to go hand in hand with explicit sexuality, oodles of profanity and bloody bodies stuffed in suitcases, that's not such a bad thing. Instead, Ties That Bind aspires to be Rizzoli & Isles without the autopsy scenes, or The Fosters without the lesbian mothers.

Language rarely spins further out of control than "scum." Troubling crimes are talked about and dealt with, not indulged and wallowed in. Guns, knives and a certain amount of blood find their way to the screen from time to time, but don't ever seem to take it over.

Better yet, while Allison might not always make the perfect choices at work or home, she always wants to. She strives to do what's right—even, and perhaps especially, if it rubs against the easy choice. The fact that Tim's cooling his heels in prison is proof of that. As is this action-backed sentiment she shares with Matt: "If we don't do right by these kids, they'll be lost."

That's nice to see on TV. And watching Allison and Matt work through myriad issues at home may prove inspirational to many a family out there, too, as we all try to patch together the best thing we know how under whatever circumstances we face. Ties That Bind doesn't imply that it's always easy. (Foster kids and adopted kids can feel distant and disenfranchised. The kids who were there "first" can feel bitter and shunted.) But it does show that faith—and prayer before dinner!—can indeed bind us to a much larger good.


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Episode Reviews

Ties That Bind - August 12, 2015 "Pilot"



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Kelli Williams as Allison McLean; Jonathan Scarfe as Matt McLean; Dion Johnstone as Stewart; Mitchell Kummen as Jeff McLean; Natasha Calis as Rachel McLean; Matreya Scarrwener as Mariah Olson; Rhys Matthew Bond as Cameron Olson; Lucia Walters as Lt. Ellen Wilkes; Luke Perry as Tim Olson






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