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Published 11/22/2009 at 6:53pm  |  Views: 4905
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by Mike Hale
Original Article

In June ABC ordered a new show called "Let's Dance," based on a British reality series, in which celebrities would replicate famous dance routines. A programming executive said, "The tone of this is fun." On Nov. 4 ABC announced that "Let's Dance" would make its debut this Monday, following "Dancing With the Stars." Five days later ABC changed its mind and canceled "Let's Dance."

In its place we're getting a new show called "Find My Family," based on an Australian reality series (which was based on a Dutch reality series). When ABC ordered this one, also back in June, a programming executive said, "It feels like an ABC show, there's a lot of soul here."

Tim Green, right, the co-host of "Find My Family," with Sandy and Scott Steinpas of Wisconsin.
So there you have it: soul trumps fun. Based on the first episode of "Find My Family," soul means tears.

The six-episode series has a lot in common with "The Locator" on the WE channel. In each case the show acts as private investigator, tracking down missing loved ones. "Find My Family" differs on two counts: It appears to focus almost exclusively on adoptees, and it plays down the detective work to make more time for the catharsis.

In real life the issues surrounding the reunification of adoptees and birth parents are difficult and often contentious. Not so on "Find My Family." The primary host, Tim Green, sums up the show's ethos in the premiere when he tells a couple searching for the daughter they gave up years before, "I think every adopted person's dream is to be found." Mr. Green and his co-host, Lisa Joyner, are adoptees -- "like a lot of people working on this show," he says -- and at a successful mother-and-child reunion his tears flow along with the family's.

The possibility that someone might not want to meet a parent or child whom she's never known is acknowledged, but in the segments made available for review, it's just a plot device, something to generate a little suspense before the inevitable group hug. "Find My Family" will become more interesting -- and more genuinely moving -- if it ever allows itself to depict the consequences of rejection. (Of course rejection would mean turning down not only the chance to meet a crucial person in your life but also the chance to appear on television.)

The general air of hokum can't completely hide the complexity of the show's situations however. The premiere involves a Brookfield, Wis., couple who gave up a daughter for adoption when they were in high school and have since married and had three more children. A cynical viewer might wonder if the mother isn't a bit too wrapped up in her own feelings and note the phrasing when she says, upon seeing her long-lost daughter for the first time, "I just wanted my kids to meet her."

The daughter, a poised, telegenic and gracious woman who seems both happy and shell-shocked at the turn of events, says, "I don't know for sure where things are going to go." Wherever it is, the cameras won't be there anymore.

FIND MY FAMILY

ABC, Monday night at 9:30, Eastern and Pacific times; 8:30, Central time.

Tom Forman, Julie Laughlin-Jones, Chris Coelen and Tony Yates, executive producers; Tim Green and Lisa Joyner, hosts. Produced by RelativityReal and RDF USA.