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Series / Fam

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Left to Right: Clem, Shannon, Nick

Fam was a 2019 American Sitcom on the CBS Network.

Clem (Nina Dobrev), after an upbringing that left a lot to be desired, has pulled herself up and built a fantastic life—she has a great job, terrific apartment, and an amazing fiancé, Nick (Tone Bell), a college professor from a well-to-do "normal" family. Nick's warm and supportive parents, Rose (Sheryl Lee Ralph) and Walt (Brian Stokes Mitchell), embrace Clem and complete the family she always wanted.

But when Clem’s wild-child half-sister, Shannon (Odessa Adlon), appears on their doorstep to escape their train wreck of a dad, homicide detective Freddy (Gary Cole), Nick agrees that Clem can help her avoid all the mistakes she made, and they invite her to move in. As the family Clem chose and the family she has blend, Clem realizes that this happy fam may be the perfection she's been seeking.


After airing 13 episodes with decent-but-not-spectacular ratings, CBS announced in May of 2019 that it would not renew the show.

Tropes in this series include:

  • Absentee Actor: Presumably because of Gary Cole's busy schedule, Freddy only appears in about half of the first season, though the character is still talked about in the episodes where he's gone, like a subplot in "Ocean View" where Walt gets input from Clem and Shannon about how to be like Freddy when he gets the role of a Dirty Cop in a play.
  • Adults Are Useless: Jolene, Shannon's mother, left her when she moved away after she got remarried. When she comes back a couple of years later to get Shannon back into her custody, she's willing to let her go off on a four day (or longer) excursion with her friends to a concert in Pennsylvania without adult supervision.
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  • The Alcoholic: Freddy.
  • Amicable Exes: Freddy and Jolene, who (awkwardly) hug when they reunite and try to calmly argue why Shannon can't be in her custody. It ends with Jolene "persuading" Freddy and Freddy stating that he hates her before giving in.
  • And Starring: Sheryl Lee Ralph and Brian Stokes Mitchell both get "With" credits, while Gary Cole gets an "And" credit.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Shannon is tempted to move back in with Jolene. Clem can't believe it, given Jolene's assorted problems, but Shannon still wants to have a close relationship with her mother.
    Shannon: [to Clem] What would you do if your mom came back for you?
  • At Least I Admit It: Freddy has a relaxed attitude about his faults because he's so upfront about them.
    Jolene: Hey, you're also terrible!
    Freddy: No one is arguing with that!
  • Author Avatar: Show creator Corinne Kingsbury says that Clem is based on herself.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    Freddy: [after being on the receiving end of a "The Reason You Suck" Speech from Clem] ...sigh. Listen, I didn't ask for any of this.
    Clem: Well, me neither.
    Freddy: ...I meant about having kids.
    Clem: Ugh! [leaves]
    Freddy: Because I knew I'd be bad at it!
  • Black and Nerdy: Nick is an associate professor of world literature at NYU.
  • Casting Gag: Not the first time Gary Cole has played a neglectful single father named Fred in a comedy-drama show.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Clem's "The Reason You Suck" Speech towards her father flies over his head.
    Clem: You're not my family now. These people are my family now, because my real one is a disaster!
    Freddy: Wow, did you hear that Shannon? You're a disaster.
    Clem: I was mostly talking about you.
  • Cut Short: The final episode, "This is Fam", wrapped up the main story thread with the wedding of Clem and Nick. But it also clearly set up what would've been the storyline had it continued: Freddy, recovering from his gunshot wounds, moves in with Clem, Nick and Shannon.
  • Dirty Cop: Played for Laughs. Freddy is a homicide detective, yet he's The Alcoholic, a neglectful parent, implied to be a gambler, has had multiple marriages and divorces, participates in tax evasion, scams, and is easily persuaded by sex. He has also acknowledged that he breaks various rules and regulations for his own benefit.
    Clem: How is it that even though you're a cop, practically everything you do is illegal?
    Freddy: What am I gonna do, arrest myself?
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Freddie goes over to Jolene to convince her that Shannon can't live with her. He changes his mind after Jolene "persuades" him, if you catch our drift.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name: Clementine Lawrence Taylor Barnes and Shannon Patrick Ewing Barnes, obviously reflecting Freddy's admiration of two New York sports legends.
  • Failed a Spot Check: In the second episode, Freddy is invited to dinner, and he asks if he should bring Shannon. He somehow missed that Shannon has been gone from his apartment for a week.
  • Foolish Sibling, Responsible Sibling: Shannon is a party girl mess, while Clem is the older sister that has her life together and is considered not fun.
  • Freudian Excuse: Shannon's various quirks and faults can be traced back to her irresponsible father and ditzy mother.
  • Freudian Trio:
    • Id: Shannon — Impetuous, irresponsible and flighty.
    • Superego: Clem — Cautious and responsible to a fault.
    • Ego: Nick — Has his own quirks and silly moments but still pretty level-headed.
  • Gay Best Friend: Ben is this to Clem.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Clem and Shannon's crappy treatment by their father is treated in a comedic light for the most part.
  • Hypocrite: Clem can't tell Shannon that she can't have boys over for a sleepover because she had boys over all-ccasionally herself growing up and she knows Shannon would call her out on it if she didn't let her do the same.
  • I "Uh" You, Too: Deep down, Freddy does love his daughters; he just has trouble expressing it. He offers a relaxed "okay" in "Jolene, Jolene" to the idea of walking Clem down the aisle for the wedding and waits until she's out of the room to talk about how happy he is about it.
  • I Wished You Were Dead: Clem told Nick's parents that her father is dead, and as far as she's concerned, she wishes he was dead.
  • Insult Backfire: Clem tells her dad that he's the worst person to ever exist, which he takes in stride because it's good to be the best at something.
  • It's All About Me: Freddy.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Freddy makes two good points in "Jolene, Jolene":
    • First is when Clem asks for his help with Jolene:
      Freddy: Hey, you have to make up your mind. Am I a guy that you come to for help or a useless jerk that you don't want in your life?
      Clem: Can't you be both?
    • Later, he's the one to convince Shannon not to move back in with Jolene. He notes that Clem is not remotely fun, but that that environment is safer and healthier than living with Jolene would be.
  • Karaoke Box: In "Freddy Returns", Freddy sings "Baby Got Back" at Rose and Walt's dinner when they set up the karaoke machine.
  • Like Parent, Like Child:
    • Freddy and Shannon. Both are dumb losers who can't seem to keep things together, but Shannon at least has time to change her ways with help from Clem, Nick, and Nick's parents, while Freddy has already divorced from two marriages and his kids want to cut him out of their lives.
    • Shannon also has a lot in common with Jolene, being a party girl quick to ignore responsibilities. Shannon does doubt, though, she could keep up with Jolene's drinking and partying long-term.
    • Walt and Nick are a more positive example. Both are well-adjusted nice guys who tend to make sarcastic comments about the things going on around them.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Clem didn't tell her dad that she was getting married in an attempt to cut him out of her life. It only lasts about an episode or two in.
  • May–December Romance: Apparently, Jolene had a fling with one of Clem's classmates.
  • Mrs. Robinson: Jolene, Shannon's biological mother, qualifies. She made out with Clem's boyfriend at Clem's prom and is very flirtatious with Nick when they meet for the first time.
  • Nice Guy: Nick is an exceptionally polite and easygoing guy, to the point of wanting a good relationship with Freddy. Also, Walt is an extremely trusting guy.
  • One Steve Limit: In "Drunk in Love", it is revealed that Clem and Nick's relationship began when she accidentally texted him due to mistaking him for another guy named Nick whom she had met.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Clem and Shannon find it odd that their father has come to dinner to meet with Nick and his family on time, cleaned up, and without smelling like alcohol.
  • Parental Abandonment: Clem's mother left her and her father.
  • Parental Neglect:
    • Clem and Shannon's father, Freddy, to the point that Clem didn't tell him about her engagement with Nick and later Shannon running away from home to live with them.
    • Shannon's mother, Jolene, moved away and let Shannon stay behind. Which in contrast, makes Freddy look better, since he does try to look for Clem and Shannon and is a bit hurt when Clem reveals she's trying to cut him out of her life.
  • Parental Substitute: Discussed by Nick, who says that with Shannon living with them now, that basically makes him and Clem parents already, except without the cute parts of having a baby daughter and more emphasis on having a teenage daughter.
  • Police Brutality: The main conflict in "Stealing Time" (getting back the watch) is resolved by Freddy assaulting the pawn shop owner.
  • Promotion to Parent: The premise of the show is Clem stepping up as a parental figure for her teenage sister. Nick thinks it'll be good practice for when they have their own kids... "in 5-7 years minimum."
  • So Proud of You: Given the kind of guy he is, Freddy often expresses pride for such things as Clem picking a winning horse at the track or Shannon pawning a stolen watch.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: When Clem and Nick pick up Shannon after she's gotten detention from the principal for violating the dress code, Clem calls him out on the Double Standard of how somehow girls are the ones for being punished for wearing whatever they want while boys are the ones who make a deal out of it by getting "distracted". This results in the principal giving Shannon more detention.
  • Robbing the Dead: In the final episode, Freddy steals Yankees tickets off a dead man at a crime scene.
  • Tempting Fate: While Shannon introduces herself to Nick's parents, she and Clem say that they're half-siblings through their father, who is totally dead... and then the man at the door claims to be Clem and Shannon's father.
    Shannon: Oh my god, you're alive! [confused look from Freddy]
  • Title Drop: In the first episode.
    Clem: Look, I used to think family meant nothing too. But then I met [Nick]. And then I realized family is everything.
    Shannon: No one says family anymore. It's just "fam".
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Shannon is disgusted in "Pregnant Pause" by Clem saying, "I love you." She considers it emotional blackmail to keep her from moving out. Shannon gives her a hug and then immediately runs out of the room like she's about to vomit in disgust.
  • Wild Teen Party: Shannon holds one at the apartment without permission while Clem and Nick go on a weekend getaway in "Ocean View".
  • You're Not My Father: Clem disowns her father in front of her fiancee and parents-in-law, saying that they along with Shannon are her family now.