A Friend of the Family is another prime example of how limited series are getting out of control. The run time for this series combined is just under eight hours. And half of that would be considered too much of a story to tell, mainly because there’s not much of a story here. The cast is all wrong. Even the impressive young child actress McKenna Grace, who was a highlight of Ghostbusers: Afterlife, is wasted here. And the powers that be behind this series did everything they could to oversexualize her as she was only 15 during the production.
The series spotlights the real true-crime case of Jan Broberg, who was kidnapped twice at ages 12 (Hendrix Yancy) and 14 (Grace), from her Idaho home by Robert Berchtold (Jake Lacy) who is the friend in the title. But he wanted to be called B by everyone. And mark my word, you’ll will never want to hear this consonant said ever again. If you’re watching Wheel of Fortune and someone asks for a B, I wouldn’t be surprised if you flip out and lose it. Another title for this series could’ve been called, “Where’s Jan?” because that’s asked so many times it reminds me of The Simpsons‘ infamous Poochie episode where Homer says Itchy and Scratchy should be asking this “Where’s Poochie?” whenever isn’t on the screen. There’s nothing I hate worse when characters are constantly talking about other characters during scenes. It’s terrible writing mostly.
The series begins in 1974 in a mostly Mormom community in Idaho as Bob and Mary Ann Broberg (Colin Hanks and Anna Paquin both wrongly miscast) play caricatures of the nuclear family couple. Bob has male-pattern baldness something Hanks doesn’t have and it just looks like he’s doing an SNL skit. As for Paquin, it’s hard to believe that at one time she won an Oscar, because she mostly does what she did as Rogue in the X-Men movie which is to quiver when something is said and react emotionlessly by gawking. Bob has his own flower shop which must be pulling in some serious bucks because they live in your standard 1970s home where Mary Ann can stay at home and do all the ironing and cooking while they raise three daughters.
One day, they meet a new family which includes B and his very submissive wife, Gail (Lio Tipton). From the minute B sees Jan, he does everything but salivate all over her. I mean, the man is such a creep Stevie Wonder could see it a mile away. He even wants to cuddle with her. And that’s the problem, there’s no big surprise. From the get-go, we know what B is up to. And it makes you wonder why the fuck didn’t the Brobergs see? The argument raised is they were Mormons and didn’t know any better. Even the District Attorney Garth Pincock (Patrick Fischler) says he’s a Mormon too but not as naive and gullible.
B sets off so many red flags, you’re surprised a herd of bulls don’t charge across the screen at one point. Peacock aired the first four episodes of a nine-episode series all at once on Oct. 6. It was probably because if they aired one episode a week, people would’ve stopped watching halfway through the second episode. Eventually, B kidnaps Jan by saying he’s going to take her horseback riding over Bob’s objection because they were going to have family night to do a puzzle. And B gives Jan a sleeping pill saying it’s an allergy pill.
So, when Jan and B don’t come back, the parents foolishly don’t do anything. They sit around and talk about what might have happened. They didn’t call the police and even Gail defends B the best telling them not to call the police. It’s true that law enforcement didn’t take child abduction as seriously as it did before the abduction and murder of Adam Walsh in south Floriday, but surely they would’ve put out an APB on B’s car, just in case there was an accident or something.
Well, B convinces Jan that there’s this alien invasion conspiracy that is so absurd it has to be based on a true story. But the problem is that Lacy is so unconvincing in his performance, you wouldn’t believe him if he told you the sky was blue. Lacy spends most of his time mugging for the camera and making some silly sneer that becomes tired after the third episode. Granted he looks like a pedophile predator but you’re left wondering why anyone would believe him or worse be threatened by him.The most absurd part is the second time he kidnaps Jan he convinces a Catholic girls boarding school that he works for the CIA with President Gerald Ford. So this series doesn’t just piss off Mormons, it is bound to piss off Catholics.
The series implies that B had a sexual relationship with both Bob and Mary Ann, but this was to use it against them if they ever press charges. But yet, B isn’t just that convincing and Lacy plays him poorly. I’m honestly not believing for one minute that Mormons or not in Idaho could’ve been this gullibe. The series gives us another character FBI Agent Peter Walsh (Austin Stowell) as someone who’s supposed to be very helpful to the Brobergs but you can sense his patience is at an end when it seems the Brobergs help blow the case the first time.
Eventually, Jan does run away from home as B constantly contacts her and we get an absurd scene if Mary Ann speeding toward the airport after returning home and finding Jan gone yet one of her other daughter’s has a fucking broken arm. I would tell you who the other daughters are but it’s irrelavant. After a while, you forget that B and Gail had kids as well. That’s if you can sit through all nine episodes. It too me a few weeks to sit through it because I just really couldn’t believe it after a while. I used to be a crime reporter covering perverts like B and there’s no way the victim’s parents acted the way they did here.
There’s an introducton by the real Jan Broberg. People might not have known of child predators or groomers in 1974 but I felt this series would show a more methodical predator but it’s just the result of really stupid parents. What’s worse is we find out that the church elders knew about B’s behavior with other young underage women but didn’t tell anyone because “he repented.” Aside from an assault charge and spending 15 days in jail and credit for time served, the real Robert Berchtold never was held accountable for any of his crimes against Jan. He claimed he had mental problems and spent time in a hospital for about six months. He even tried repeatedly to get Bob and Mary Ann to grant him permission to marry her so he could avoid crimes, which people repeatedly tell Bob and Mary Ann but they act like they don’t understand.
Berchtold would commit suicide in 2005 following an altercation with Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) demonstrators. What sucks is we find out through title cards about how Jan worked to change the statue of limitations in Idaho so the courts could go after creeps like him. There’s a great story in what they don’t show us and a horrible story in what they do. And both Peacock and Netflix have produced two documentaries, both about an hour and a half, about this case that probably go into more depth than this series that just keeps repeating scenes over and over.
What do you think? Please comment.