The Fosters (2013) pilot episode introduces the Fosters family by showing that they are “not the Brady Bunch.” Moreover, this family is not like any you’ve seen on television before. The Fosters portrays a realistic image of modern families. Families who face real problems, including divorce, but love each other wholeheartedly.
A show that The Fosters is sometimes compared to is The O.C (2003). On the surface there are many overlapping elements between the programs. However, the characters connections and their characteristics make these two shows very different.
Though there are intertwining characteristics between Seth and Brandon, and Callie and Ryan, overall, these characters are very dissimilar. Seth is the stereotypical, socially awkward, geek boy. Brandon is neither a geek nor a popular kid. He is somewhere in-between. In most family shows, teens are characterized as being geeks or popular. In reality, most teens fall in the middle of those two traits. Therefore, Brandon is a more realistic portrayal of a teen than Seth.
Callie represents Ryan in that they both had difficult lives until they were taken in by loving families. However, Callie is craftier than Ryan. She analyzes everything and chooses her actions wisely. On the other hand, Ryan seemed ruled by his emotions, whereas, Callie fears letting hers dictate her behavior.
One of the most charming things about The O.C was the brotherly relationship between Seth and Ryan. In The Fosters, the Ryan and Seth dynamic is shown through Callie and Brandon, except it takes a romantic tone. Callie and Brandon’s relationship intrigues like Ryan and Seth’s did, but there is an element of danger to it. Viewers clearly see the sexual tension between Callie and Brandon. This makes all of their interactions a bit dangerous, because succumbing to their sexual desires puts Callie at risk of losing her new home. This gives their interaction a darker tone than Ryan and Seth’s relationship.
Besides the clear structural differences of two women raising five kids vs. a male and female raising two children, the way the Cohens and the Fosters interacts and relate to one another do not correlate. The Fosters discussions are deeper and bolder. They discuss sex, abuse, drugs and are unafraid to use aggressive language. The O.C had these elements but usually in a secretive or cautionary tale way.
Stef and Lena actively participate in their children’s lives in a way that Sandy and Kristen did not. Sandy and Kristen were often shocked to learn of their kids’ actions, but Lena and Stef seem aware of their children’s behavior. Until the pilot episode, the Fosters appear as a family without secrets, because they are more honest and upfront about their deeds than other families. In The Fosters, the parents aren’t blindsided by the actions of their teenagers through a third-party reveal, because they confess their mistakes.
The Fosters and The O.C both show families who love each other unconditionally, but The Fosters tells a grittier and truer story about family.