By Willa Paskin Slate
ABC Family’s “The Fosters” is one of the sleeper pleasures of summer, a sweet family drama that goes down easy while unabashedly having some of the most overtly liberal politics of any series on TV (and without a Republican straw man behind which to hide its blue streak).
The final episode of the summer season airs Monday.
It’s a straight-up family values show, zealous in its episodic affirmation of the good a stable home can do for children and parents, but one in which the family itself is an affront to social conservatives.
Interracial (and yes, sexually active) lesbian couple Lena and Stef (Sherri Saum and Teri Polo) are raising five kids: Stef’s biological son Brandon, a pair of adopted teenage Latina twins, Jesus and Mariana, and two new additions to an already bustling house, foster children Callie and her little brother, the probably gay seventh-grader Jude.
In just eight episodes, “The Fosters” has been remarkably frank about a number of issues that TV usually avoids, including race and abortion.
A few episodes ago, Stef and Lena, who also supply their oldest son with condoms, bought the morning-after pill for Jesus’ girlfriend Lexi, even though her very religious parents would not and did not approve.
Lena and her darker-skinned mother got into an argument about what it means to be biracial in America that was more frank than just about any such discussion I’ve seen on television.
And it was recently revealed that Lexi and her parents are all undocumented, meaning next season the show could take on the Dream Act.
“The Fosters” often grants airtime to characters with different point of views to express their opinions, opinions that are always written respectfully, but the show’s underlying, deep-blue perspective ultimately wins out.
ABC Family has previously aired shows with more conservative undertones, like the more pro-life “The Secret Life of An American Teenager,” but “The Fosters” fits on the channel because its real message, week after week, is that when there’s trouble, it’s your parents who will help you the most.
Stef and Lena have a touchy-feely parenting style. But at the climax of most episodes, a teen’s situation dramatically improves when they bring it to one of their mothers, who have fielded everything from pregnancy and sexual assault to wearing nail polish to school.
On “The Fosters,” parents are to be trusted, which means kids get to be kids. It’s a family values show through and through, even if those who preach “family values” might not agree.