Network TV this summer has been unlike any other. Aside from the typical reality fare (So You Think You Can Dance, Big Brother, The Bachelorette), there has been a plethora -- that's right, a plethora -- of scripted dramas. Rookie Blue may have been the season's staple for the past four seasons, not to mention my guilty pleasures Teen Wolf and Pretty Little Liars, but this year, there has also been Under The Dome, Motive, Crossing Lines and Mistresses.
By far, though, my favourite show this summer has been The Fosters. It's my first season-long commitment to an ABC Family/Spark show (though I have been tempted by Switched At Birth and the recently cancelled Bunheads and The Lying Game) and I'm glad I invested in it.
In case you don't know what the family drama is all about, it centres on a lesbian couple -- police officer Stef (Teri Polo) and school administer Lena (Sherri Saum) -- with a small litter: Stef's biological son, Brandon (David Lambert), with her ex-husband and partner Mike (Danny Nucci); former foster kids-now-adopted twins Jesus (Jake T. Austin) and Marianna (Cierra Ramirez); and new fosters Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Jude (Hayden Byerly).
I can see how some people might find the series forced and trying too hard to be relevant (two lesbians, one bi-racial, one white, raising a multi-ethnic mix of biological, adopted and foster children -- how novel!), but The Fosters is anything but. The show represents much more than a modern family; it's a real one. It's the way Stef and Lena interact and fight with one another, how they discipline their children and don't always agree that makes it such a relatable, watchable show. The series is often promoted as being executive-produced by Jennifer Lopez, but it's unnecessary. J.Lo or not, The Fosters is great television.
It may not be as flashy as some of the network's other programs, but that's what makes The Fosters such a pleasure to watch. Sure, it had its share of drama and touched on things like teenage sex, underage drinking and rape, but it managed to not be preachy and after-school special-like.
It's truly an ensemble drama that may centre on the moms, but the kids have gotten their time to shine. Despite how well-treated and loved Callie is, you can still see the doubt in her eyes, like she was waiting for the other shoe to drop the entire time. It might have something to do with her unhealthy attraction to Brandon, and vice versa, which came to a head in the Season 1 finale. Even though Stef and Lena told Callie and Jude that they wanted to permanently add the kids to the brood, Callie still felt the need to put it all in jeopardy when she decided to go for what she believed she deserved -- and she and Brandon got all kissy-kissy. Of course, it all went to hell when Jude witnessed it, and called out his sister for being selfish and wrecking anything good that could happen to them. The kid was right, particularly considering what went down with former "brother" Liam (Brandon W. Jones), Callie knew it, and to protect her brother, she sneaked off in the middle of the night, leaving the first real home she's known in a long time, maybe ever.
I'm not sure how the series would have addressed the kiss, so Callie skipping town with her ex, Wyatt (Alex Saxon), who was moving to Indiana to be with his mom, made sense. It also leaves a lot for future story and hopefully the next time we see her, she'll realize sweet and charming Wyatt is the guy for her (I may be in the minority but I've always found the Callie/Brandon dynamic a bit icky and even though their lip-lock was inevitable, I was still uncomfortable watching it).
The finale featured Stef and Lena finally getting married, and while Marianna didn't get a ton of screen time, she did get to dedicate the oh-so-appropriate "Same Love" to her moms, which kick-started the entire family dancing together. It could've been a cheesy moment, but it was sweet and touching and a wee bit awkward as Callie and Brandon couldn't look at each other. The saddest scene of the episode (and Polo's best) was Stef's confrontation with her dad (Sam McMurray), telling him that she didn't want her at her wedding if he didn't support her relationship 100 percent, and I was more than a little surprised that he didn't show. We also met Lena's dad (Stephen Collins), who got ordained online to marry the women (a nice nod to Rev. Camden), and it wasn't shocking that her mom, Dana (Lorraine Toussaint), didn't exactly jibe with Stef's mom, Sharon (Annie Potts). Speaking of, can Potts be on every episode? Love her.
In other news, we learned that Jesus' girlfriend and Marianna's best friend Lexi (Bianca A. Santos) is going to Honduras to visit her sick grandmother -- but unbeknownst to her, she and her family aren't coming back. Also, Stef told Mike what really when down when he shot Ana's boyfriend, but we still don't know what's going to happen with his job as a cop. I hope he finds a way to stick around because Mike adds an interesting dynamic to the show.
All in all, despite the cliffhanger ending, the finale mainly focused on its best quality: Stef and Lena's love story. It showcased a real, honest relationship that comes with both good and bad. And while there aren't teenage pregnancies (yet) or twins trading lives, it's the small things and quiet, subtle moments that make The Fosters so heartwarming and addictive. It might be seen as groundbreaking but when you get down to the heart of it, they're just two people who love each other. Throw in their increasingly growing, increasingly complicated family, and you can't ask for a better show, summer or anytime.
'The Fosters' returns with new episodes in January 2014 on ABC Spark in Canada and on ABC Family in the U.S.