In the female-empowering spirit of two of our favorite shows–Good Girls and Dead to Me–is one of this season’s hottest new releases–Fox’s Almost Family. The show poses a soul-searching question to viewers. Is family what we create, or is family those we are tied to through shared DNA?
Almost Family introduces us to three young women. As Lizzo’s Good As Hell plays during the opening credits, we meet Julia Bechley. She’s played by Brittany Snow who is well-known for her role as Chloe in the Pitch Perfect films. She’s the only child of her father, a popular fertility doctor. She is constantly trying to please him, yearning for his affection and approval. She’s warm and awkward, unsure of what she wants to do with her life.
Then there’s Roxy Doyle, portrayed by Emily Osment. She’s a former Olympian turned pill addict who lives with her parents and is prone to angry outbursts. She’s disrespectful, immature, and unpredictable, but she desperately craves connection. Though she makes poor decisions and acts as entitled as a toddler, she’s also endearing.
The third woman we meet is Edie Palmer, played by Megalyn Echikunwoke. She’s a biracial woman married to a fellow lawyer–who is also Julia’s former boyfriend. Roxy and Julia grew up as family friends—though their current relationship can be described as lukewarm, at best.
From the get-go, the show takes us on a wild ride. We learn that Roxy isn’t intimate with her husband–and is secretly exploring her sexuality. Edie could care less about securing a job after her athletic career plummets despite her parents’ financial reliance on her. And Julia gives a tear-jerking speech at a medical award ceremony, telling the crowd how much she admires her father for the many families he has created–just before all hell breaks loose.
Something we can be certain of. Sisterhood is freaking complicated. Almost Family is not your Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or Now and Then rerun where peace and harmony prevails, nor is it some sort of rendition of Delivery Man. When three women learn they’re legit sisters–confirmed by a DNA test–what are they supposed to do with that? Sit around the Thanksgiving table together arguing politics and drinking too much wine? Or do they just carry on as if nothing happened?
There’s no guidebook on how to be sisters when you didn’t grow up stealing each other’s scrunchies and favorite Lip Smacker. And with three very different women abruptly coming together–there’s bound to be all kinds of drama and big decisions.
What’s horrifying is that the show’s plot isn’t entirely fictional. Multiple fertility doctors have done as Almost Family’s villain Dr. Bechley did—used their own sperm to father children. The first documented case was in 1884 when Dr. William Pancoast had one of his medical students impregnate a sedated woman—telling the woman’s husband and swearing him to secrecy. Fast-forward to today, and several cases of doctors–including Dr. Donald Cline of Indianapolis, who fathered at least fifty children—continue to surface. With the advancement of DNA testing, more and more biological siblings are discovering one another and the dark secrets of their biological fathers who committed what’s known as medical rape.
What will happen on the show next is anyone’s guess, but I can predict there are some big surprises in store. Because one thing is clear—when women take the reins, there’s no stopping them. And this trio is not playing.
I’m dying to know what Edie, Roxy, and Julia will do next. Will they form a sisterly bond–and how? Or do they try to remain living separate lives despite shared DNA? And what about their other potential siblings? Will Daddy dearest wind up in prison for medical rape? And will Julia testify against her beloved dad or revert to protecting him at all costs?
I’m only two episodes in, and I’m hooked. As a mom by adoption, I find this show particularly intriguing because I have seen the strong resemblances—from gestures, to talents, to physical appearance—that my children have to their biological siblings. There’s something undeniable about ties between birth family members. Yes, nurture—how and where children are raised—impacts them. But the nature part—the DNA—is nothing short of miraculous and awe-inspiring.
I plan to keep watching Almost Family and see how the three sisters’–and counting–stories unfold. So pour the wine and pop the popcorn, because we’re on fertile ground here. And what’s going to be produced is sure to keep us yearning for more female empowerment in the midst of confusion and heartbreak.
This article was originally published on