Thank you to Disney and ABC for inviting me to Los Angeles on an all-expense paid trip, in exchange for coverage of Disney’s the Nutcracker and the Four Realms and the #ABCTVEVENT event. I was hosted by Disney for the #DisneysNutcrackerEvent and given a set tour by Caleb Foote of The Kids Are Alright and to meet some of the cast including Michael Cudlitz but all opinions are my own.
Last month in Los Angeles, I got a sneak peek of ABC’s “The Kids Are Alright.” I have to admit, that this is one of my favorite new shows this season because it reminds me of growing up in my parents’ house in the 70’s and 80’s. There were 8 of us in a small house. There wasn’t a lot of money but there was a lot of love and faith in God, in each other and in family. There were also a lot of shenanigans.
Set in the 1970s, the ensemble comedy “The Kids Are Alright” follows a traditional Irish-Catholic family, the Clearys, as they navigate big and small changes during one of America’s most turbulent decades. In a working-class neighborhood outside Los Angeles, Mike and Peggy raise eight boisterous boys who live out their days with little supervision. The household is turned upside down when oldest son Lawrence returns home and announces that he’s quitting the seminary to go off and “save the world.” Times are changing and this family will never be the same. There are 10 people, three bedrooms, one bathroom and everyone in it for themselves. Honestly, on the set visit, I felt like I was back home at my mom’s house.
The series stars Michael Cudlitz as Mike Cleary, Mary McCormack as Peggy Cleary, Sam Straley as Lawrence Cleary, Caleb Foote as Eddie Cleary, Sawyer Barth as Frank Cleary, Christopher Paul Richards as Joey Cleary, Jack Gore as Timmy Cleary, Andy Walken as William Cleary, and Santino Barnard as Pat Cleary.
On the day we visited, we were shown around the set by Caleb Foote, who plays Eddie Cleary. We also had the chance to meet Tim Doyle, creator and executive producer, whose life the show is about, production designer, Michael Whetstone, set decorator, Claudette Didul, costume designer, Susan Michalek, line producer, Kris Eber and Michael Cudlitz ( who plays Dad, Mike Cleary) as well as several of the other Cleary family members. It was amazing.
The Cleary House
The attention to detail is crazy. The Kids Are Alright house is based on a house the producers found in Sherman Oaks.
“Whetstone: This house is based on a house that we found for the pilot back in March and I think it was built in 1932. It was very, very small. It was one of the first ranch houses in Studio City or something. And our director loved it tight. He wanted it to feel crowded. Usually, when you go to stage, you say, “Oh, I’m gonna make it 25% bigger for shooting.” We didn’t really do that.”
“Foote: In most cases, they would expand the set in the recreation of the studio. But, having the tight-knit family is a big part of our show.”
The thing I really loved about the house is that you really got the feel of what it’s like to live during those times in a small house with a big family. As I mentioned before, this is exactly how I grew up with the exception of us being in Chicago, 3 boys and 3 girls and being Latino Catholic versus Irish and the story is pretty much my childhood. I can tell you from experience, a claustrophobic home filled with children and love may feel like a noose on your neck at sometimes but mostly, it feels like a hug from a mom and it’s something that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
The dining room is the heart of the Cleary house; it’s where meals are served, where the important conversations take place and where Peggy and Mike dole out nourishment and wisdom to their 8 boys. The thing I loved about it the most was that it is so small and so full of things that the family can barely all fit in it at once. In fact, if you pay attention, you will notice that each episode, a different son sits at a tiny side table.
You might also notice that most of the decor looks like it’s from the 1950s and 1960s since the family is on a tight budget with all those boys. This is keeping it real.
One thing that I absolutely loved is that they created an actual outdoor yard to film in. They did have the soundstage yard but that infamous treehouse and who could forget that brotherly love fight scene sandbox, that is all outside and it is magical. From the clothes on the line to the car in the driveway, you felt like you were transported back to the 1970’s.
We met the show’s creator Tim Doyle. The Kids Are Alright is based on Doyle’s childhood and he narrates each episode. This is his childhood and he reminisced with us about how different growing up in the 70’s was versus growing up now.
“Doyle: It’s a funny thing. It’s amazing that we all survived that period but some of us didn’t. But all the ones that are here are like, “Oh, yeah, it’s okay. You don’t have to have parental supervision. Let kids run around like feral animals. Let them do whatever they want.” That’s the people who survived talking. There are the other ones and a lot of bad stuff happened but we’re not telling those stories. We’re glossing over those.
We’re not saying don’t be good parents. We’re saying be good to your kids and supervise them. But there was a different way… We’re giving a taste of, as accurately as we can, what we remember it being like.”
The vintage clothes, the vernacular and even the television shows and magazines lying around the house…The Kids Are alright producers did not miss a beat in capturing the 1970’s era.
We got to see wardrobe with costume designer Susan Michalek. The collection of clothes needed for a show with 10 principal actors is huge.
“Michalek: We need so much that what we really get from is all the rental houses in L.A (Los Angeles). ABC has a costume house, Warner Brothers has a costume house, and then there are some private ones too. There are about eight or ten in L.A. Their buildings are the size of football fields and really high with racks of clothing where we go get most of it.”
The Kids Are Alright is all about conjuring up the nostalgia one feels when going home. None of this happened by accident. Extensive research was done to insure that the Cleary home was filled with just the right furniture, knick–knacks and even the wall hangings.
“Didol: We actually lucked out with a couple of estate sales. We literally took this whole drapery rig right out of the house as is, and it is so fragile that I couldn’t get it dry cleaned and we’re going to just see how long it lasts… But we really do try to do our due diligence, finding things that were from the right period.”
On tonight’s episode, Peggy sees an opportunity to put Eddie’s Girlfriend through a test before letting her into the Cleary family circle on an all-new episode of ABC’s ‘The Kids Are Alright, Tuesday, November 13.
Peggy’s Day Out-To hide a mess Eddie made, his girlfriend, Wendi, tries to distract Peggy by insisting she take a day off with a fun day out while they take care of the housework. To everyone’s surprise, Peggy accepts the offer and requests Wendi tag along, with the ulterior motive of teaching her a lesson. Meanwhile, Eddie enlists the help of his brothers to clean up and keep Mike out of the house while Wendi and Peggy are out. Elsewhere, Pat introduces Timmy to his secret dog on “The Kids Are Alright,” TUESDAY, NOV. 13 (8:31-9:00 p.m. EST), on The ABC Television Network, streaming and on demand.
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