Unless you're a fellow "Switched at Birth"-binging, "Pretty Little Liars"-quoting ABC Family nut, then you might not have heard about the network's critically acclaimed drama "The Fosters," which centers on a southern California lesbian couple that shelters a whole gaggle of, you guessed it, fosters. Which is a shame, because it's really, really good.
What "The Fosters" does well is take the everyday issues affecting multiracial and LGBT families worldwide and handle them without kiddie gloves, which is refreshing given the sub par treatment these topics get on 90 percent of the other teen dramas out there. It also never feels forced, unearned, or preachy, with its characters coming off like actual fleshed-out human beings instead of archetypes or lesson-learning vehicles. It's these very characters that make "The Fosters" such a must-watch, and here are the top seven reasons why you need to tune in tonight (June 16) for the launch of season two:
1. Daddy Drama
Season one ended with our hero Callie (Maia Mitchell) finding out that the man she thought was her father was... not so much, and the season two premiere digs into this major plot line right away. Robert Quinn's casting has already been revealed (Kerr Smith from "Dawson's Creek!"), but there's so much more to this character than what initially meets the eye. He has a secret, and it's good.
Callie's story has always been a heart breaker, and don't necessarily expect things to get easier for her right away — after all, what would be the fun in not watching the talented Mitchell sink her teeth into some meaty new dramatic material?
2. The Assault Aftermath
Of course, despite all of the craziness with her adoption that never was, Callie's drama wasn't even the biggest shocker of "The Fosters" finale. That honor went to Brandon's (David Lambert) final scene, which found him on the ground and beaten to a bloody pulp by those shady fake ID kids. Perfect timing too, since he had literally just been accepted to the junior symphony to play the piano — using hands that may or may not have been crushed in the fight — that day.
Brandon's struggle with possibly having to give up his one thing feels very real, despite the soapy TV nature of his injury. It's something that high school to college-aged athletes, dancers, actors, etc. deal with on a regular basis, which doesn't make it any easier for the person going through it — or his family, in "The Fosters" case.
3. The Mother-Lover
Oh and speaking of TV melodrama, Brandon also hooked up with his dad's alcoholic girlfriend (Marla Sokoloff) during the finale. This isn't exactly the type of everyday, intelligent teen fare that "The Fosters" does best, but it's certainly very amusing. Look forward to more drama down the line!
4. The Baby On Board
"The Fosters" has earned (well-deserved) praise for its handling of LGBT issues, and Lena's (Sherri Saum) somewhat unexpected pregnancy comes with plenty of sometimes sweet, sometimes emotionally tumultuous drama for the show's central lesbian couple. It's not easy to have one biological teen, two adopted teens, one adopted preteen, and a foster teen all under one roof, and a baby on the way doesn't exactly un-complicate things. Still, Lena and Stef (Teri Polo) care so much and try so hard that none of the issues that arise with the pregnancy feel forced or unearned.
5. The Mean Girl Meltdown
Another true life issue that feels earned is poor Mariana's (Cierra Ramirez) emotional turmoil at the hands of her school's very preppy, very white mean girl population. Some backhanded "compliments" from the Queen Bees lead to Mariana feeling ashamed of her Latina heritage; specifically when it comes to her hair.
The dudes watching might be scratching their heads at this, but the whitewashing of American (and European) beauty ideals is a serious, sad, complex issue that is rarely touched, especially on teen shows. (Try to think of one female on "Pretty Little Liars" who doesn't have perfectly long, wispy, elaborately coiffed hair. You can't. She doesn't exist. And that's a problem.)
6. The Trouble In Paradise
Okay, so Mariana's twin Jesus (Jake T. Austin) — with his wrestling popularity and lovely, understanding girlfriend — has it quite a bit easier than his sister does at the moment, but his relationship still feels refreshingly real, especially when compared with the high-stakes, high-drama, high-soap teen couplings we see all over the rest of television.
7. The Family Feels
Ugh, and then there's Jude (Hayden Byerly). Jude, why do you have to be so perfect and tear-inducing at each and every juncture? His drama in the premiere largely centers around his sister's failed adoption and the feelings he experiences as a result, but all of that sexuality-questioning will definitely be back in the near future. And given the fact that he's a middle school boy, it definitely won't be easy.