The Baxters

The Baxters
The Baxters
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Karen Kingsbury’s The Baxter Family series of faith-based novels are now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video. This is the television adaptation of Karen Kingsbury’s popular series of Christian books under the same title based in Bloomington, Indiana. Within this season, a young woman who is somewhat unbearable could have her marriage dissolved.

Shot 1

An SUV that pulls into a driveway fades to be replaced by a shot of mailbox named THE BAXTERS.

The first season of The Baxters – not to be confused with an experimental sitcom/talk-show hybrid from the late 70s – may serve as the beginning installment for what might become known as the Karen Kingsbury Cinematic Universe; which is basically a small screen expansion project for those fictionalized families that recur across some dozens or so of her hundred-plus novels. Elizabeth (Roma Downey) and John (Ted McGinley), still provide love and care to their children even though all five grown-up ones remain at home. Kari (Ali Cobrin), Ashley (Masey McLain), Brooke (Emily Peterson), Erin (Reilly Anspaugh), and Luke (Josh Plasse) are her five kids whom she tenderly brings up together with his husband John. However, none of them ever thought it was necessary to move away.

There are the usual exposition problems encountered during this episode but it does not mean that this is an introduction to all seven major Baxters and their respective extended families. Some barely make an appearance at all. Instead, rather than intermingling multiple storylines, Kari’s tale seems like it will run throughout all ten episodes; one where Tim – her philosophy professor spouse suddenly decides he wants out of their allegedly faultless family life after finding himself in love with another student whose beautiful snootiness borders on godlessness. Interestingly enough, there are key non-family figures listed before these other actors where Kari’s name tops because they are directly connected with her. There seems to be a love triangle developing in between Kari, her unfaithful husband and the one she lost (but not too much since he also lives in the same town) Ryan (Jake Allyn).

What Shows Will It Remind You Of?

The TV series that made Roma Downey a household name was “Touched By an Angel,” which is different from seventh heaven and other related family dramas targeted towards older viewers. This is heavily soapy with some of that old-time network-TV feel.

Our Take

Outside critics can be accused of patronizing or mean-spiritedness when they review faith-centric television or movies. And especially it becomes difficult to avoid sounding condescending when this program is as horrifyingly bad as The Baxters – the kind of Christian programming designed for Christians who want something simple to affirm their faith rather than treating fictional Christians as real individuals who think and act accordingly. Everyone in The Baxters plays, rather than behaves; like they are reading from a school play script or third-rate soap opera. Elizabeth has been caught sitting on her couch, staring at a snapshot of Kari, while holding it in her hands. That must make you nervous to understand just how bad the writing becomes when it stops being about words alone sometimes.

The entire first episode can be described as micromanagement; none of the characters have a chance to breathe or be seen on screen except for the well-scrubbed actors and actresses who live in luxurious houses that are properly designed, making the entire season seem like another prosperity gospel. This means that while changing things up with using some minor supporting cast characters into Kari’s story is a unique idea (involving cinematic-universe storytelling applied to less fantastical material), it does not last long owing to show’s plastic uniformity. It is a faith-oriented world where there is little or no room for people who do not really care for Bible Study groups. However, this ironically renders it hard to see the characters’ religious beliefs outside of their set positions, such as praying sincerely for each other between compliments doesn’t make much dramatic sense. But, in this respect, there is some real suspense here: perhaps this could turn out to be a super-pious tale of Kari sticking to her guns and saving her disloyal husband Tim through remarrying him so they could heal together; or maybe it will instead become simply a semi-religious one about Kari realizing she was right all along by choosing Ryan – first love is always the best after all! One thing we know for certain: whether she is joyful or sorrowful, being around Kari sucks.

Parting Shot

Her fingers trace an inscription from ex-boyfriend Ryan on an old yearbook page and she smiles.

Sleeper Star

Angela played by Taylour Paige (best known before now as featured in A24 Twitter-thread movie Zola) turns out to be at least more flexible among the cast members even if her character has been written like your typical homewrecker (even though the series tries to besmirch her reputation due to her mild interest in alcoholic wine during dinner hours).

Most Pilot-y Line

“Peter, what’s it like being married to a doctor and a first-born?” Nothing says pilot family dinner more than relatives explaining their situations to one another! There is plenty more where that came from; most of the characterizations in episode one are all tell, no show.

Our Call

If you’re not too religiously inclined so as to watch almost anything else, begin with that – and if you are an ardent Baxter fan, then there are dozens of books available for you providing immediate variety beyond Kari’s divorce saga. SKIP IT.

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