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‘Almost Family’ tries to avoid the ethics in a messy family drama


For a while, Fox’s new show, “Almost Family,” sounded ridiculous: a fertility doctor (Leon Bechley, played by Timothy Hutton) who had been using his own sperm to impregnate hundreds of women who couldn’t get there on their own. Preposterous, right?

It’s not, of course; within days, seemingly, several real-life news articles were published about similar cases of fertility fraud. It’s hard, these days, to come up with something too excessive for reality.

“In the real world, many people have been seriously affected by this and hurt by a life they didn’t know they were living,” Emily Osment, who plays Roxy Doyle, told the Daily News. “You do see Dr. Bechley go down. This isn’t something we’re taking lightly.

“It’s a show about morals and ethics and a powerful man going down and who he brings down with him in the year of white men falling.”

Early on, and even still, that was the concern surrounding “Almost Family:" how do you tell this story without addressing the question of consent. It’s not just that Dr. Bechley used his own material, it’s that he lied about it. But he did it for the right reasons. He genuinely wanted to help, or so we’re led to believe. Does that matter?

“I think, ultimately, it’s going to force the audience and us as human beings in 2019 to ask ourselves if we’re prepared to be responsible for the outcome of some of the questionably ethical decisions we make,” Megalyn Echikunwoke, who plays Edie Palmer, told The News. “People who are making advances in technology and people who are consuming them...there’s all these amazing things we can do in science, but in the wrong hands, bad things happen.”

Twenty years ago, maybe even 10, this could have been a sticky sweet story about sisters finding each other out of a messy situation. But it’s 2019 and we finally care about consent. TV shows have to as well.

There is a sweet story underneath it all: Roxy (Osment), a former Olympic athlete-turned-addict, is looking for a family she never knew existed already. Edie (Echikunwoke) needs stability as she reevaluates her sexuality. And Julia Bechley (Brittany Snow), Dr. Bechley’s daughter and the one left to pick up the pieces after the scandal, doesn’t know what she needs (there’s also a wildly uncomfortable scene in which she hooks up with a guy who ends up being her half-brother). But when your entire premise is about an ego-maniacal doctor who used his own sperm to impregnate hundreds of women, you can’t pretend everything is coming up roses.

“This is a story about strangers coming together to try to create an amalgamation of a family they didn’t even know they wanted,” Osment told The News.

The women who went to Bechley’s fertility clinic wanted something, too, wanted it with all their heart: a baby. Bechley gave them that, but not without a cost. Was it worth it?

“Almost Family” premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Fox.