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'Family Therapy' is not your daddy

Season 1 | Episode 6 | “Body Language” | Aired Apr 20, 2016

It’s decided. I am not nearly emotionally stable enough to watch Family Therapy with Dr. Jenn. Sure, it was all fun and games when Sister Patterson was flailing around, waving her arms in extreme histrionics and just participating generally in the shenanigans, but this week got too real for me.

Over the sobs of my ugly cry, I think I witnessed some real mental-health work. I know it sounds like I’m just fangirling out over Dr. Jenn, but she’s the real deal. I think she might actually be helping folks, in a reality-show kind of way that people are helped. And trust me, these folks need help—of the very professional variety.

This episode starts wasting a precious four minutes to follow Tiffany and Dr. Jenn to the hospital, only to be told that she and the baby are fine. It is mostly just a setup to ready us for Sister’s bizarre and unsettling denial of the pregnancy, but I would have preferred Family Therapy devote those four minutes to the body-language expert … especially since Tiffany and her mom’s bit is cut from the episode.

Dr. Jenn, in a continuing effort to unnerve her clients and cause me mental anguish, brings in the “human lie detector” to get to the bottom of the group’s emotional subtext. Her actual title is something like “body-language expert” (or something close), but we know she’s legit because she works with the police and has a tough accent.

She examines pictures from the celebs’ past, then compares them to images from a bogus photo shoot, and her analysis is uncanny. I mean, she knows her stuff, y’all. Perhaps I’ll believe anything you tell me, or I’m just a sucker for extrinsic validation, but this body-language expert cuts through all of their emotional subterfuge and gives some no-nonsense advice.

April gets the brunt of her truth bombs, which is unfortunate, because she’s like unicorns and fuzzy slippers in human form. April has spent most of the episode doting on all the other clients in the house, making smoothies, doing laundry, and spreading sunshine … so when Dr. Jenn & Co. call her out on her toxic enabling, she’s devastated.

Even I, a staunch denier and negater, couldn’t help but see the proof of April’s toxic and suffocating mothering. Bam knows it too, although he’s too chicken to tell her to her face, and his frustration leaks out in mean name-calling and immature teasing. Don’t worry, Bam: Your turn is not over yet.

As further evidence of April’s creepy “don’t deny my love” style of parenting, Dr. Jenn trots out the shots from the photo shoot. Out of the 50 test shots they took at the photo shoot, April was physically touching Bam in all 50, and gazing at him longingly and lovingly in almost as many.

The expert suggests their body language and facial expressions were downright romantic; April is mortified, justifiably; and I died a little inside. Apparently, along with being the enabler of the year, April is so unself-aware that she has no idea how much she smothers Bam. It’s news to her that’s she’s been fueling his behavior, and the realization hits her like a ton of bricks. At this point, I’m all the way dead.

Both she and Bam thought they were coming to family therapy to sort out Bam’s addiction, but Dr. Jenn isn’t interested in any of that surface-level crap. She’s not satisfied until she’s exposed every single raw nerve in these folks. Poor April acts like she’s seeing herself for the first time ever, and she doesn’t really like what she sees. Good thing Dr. Jenn is there with a pep talk.

Dr. Jenn is so sweet about it that I can’t really get too upset at her for digging in. She’s still trying to get Sister Patterson to open up about Tiffany’s pregnancy, but Sister is denying its existence entirely. Incredibly gullible moron that I am, I’m still wondering if Family Therapy might be pulling a fast one on us, and Tiffany’s pregnancy really is a false alarm. I’m kinda with Bam in the belief that she’s got some kind of super-psychic powers—beyond her powers of alienation and antagonization, that is.

In Family Therapy‘s “gut-punchiest” episode thus far, Briana and Brittany have a sit-down with their mother, Roxanne, who is a frail little bird of a woman. After the body-language expert reveals Brittany’s feelings of being pushed aside by her mother and sister, Briana’s heart finally softens to her sister. Finally.

They are making little progress in their relationship struggles, but ironically, they are brought together in a big way when their mother tells her deep, dark secret. After an excruciatingly long five minutes of their mother sobbing and denying, she finally drops the news:

Brittany and Briana have two different dads. And Brittany’s dad is dead.

DUNH. DUNH. DUNH …

The ensuing emotional fallout is almost too much to look at directly. The sobbing, the heaving chests, the snotty noses, the strained and resisted hugs. Oh, the humanity!

I want to be angry at Roxanne, but I can’t bring myself to be. I know I should, so don’t send me angry tweets, okay?

It’s just that she’s so fragile-seeming, and a bit of a doormat, and she is just begging for us to feel sorry for her. She pleads with Brittany not to be angry with her—in a voice so plaintive that it makes you sad to have a human heart.

I complain about being too sensitive, but this is good TV. I pray for drama like this every time I click onto a reality show. Family Therapy is delivering.

Family Therapy airs Wednesdays at 9/8C on VH1.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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