In Thicker Than Water, Bravo introduces us to a family that combines firm religious beliefs with a penchant for the finer things in life. The new reality series follows the Tankards, who aim to be the best, biggest, and brightest in everything they do.
After watching Sunday’s season premiere, here are five thoughts:
The Black Brady Bunch has it and flaunts it. Thicker Than Water stars gospel jazz artist/minister Ben Tankard, his wife Jewel, their three daughters, one son, and one granddaughter. The Tankards are a well-to-do blended family in the suburbs of Tennessee, and Ben dubs his kin “the Black Brady Bunch, attributing their exuberant lifestyle to his successes in music and ministry. The lifestyle of the Tankards is similar to the MTV series Run’s House, which featured Run-DMC artist Reverend Run and his blended family. However, while Rev Run maintains a humble spirit while cruising in his Bentley, Ben and Jewel flaunt the fruits of their labor, carrying on about their private jet and his-and-hers Mercedes.
Over-the-top is normal. Jewel has a morning ritual of reciting “billionaire affirmations,” and for fun, the family plays a game of croquet — talk about status. There’s a showcase of luxury, but the show fails to depict how the Tankards got there. I would have liked to see the inner-workings of Ben’s ministry or the behind-the-scenes of his work as an artist. Where’s the office setting? Where’s a snippet of long, tireless nights in a recording studio? Where’s the work ethic of the kids?
Cyrene tries to rise above the preacher’s-kid stereotype. Some of the Tankard children have interesting, but not unusual, backstories: Brooklyn, 24, the eldest daughter, has a criminal record and once ran a strippers’ lounge, and Benji, 21, is already married and had a streak of run-ins with the law for recreational drug use. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for Cyrene, 17, the baby of the family. The Tankards tread lightly with a new guy Cyrene brings to their croquet game, worrying he might corrupt their teenager, even though she pledges to maintain her virginity on prom night. As the youngest in my family, I can speak for Cyrene: Our minds are much more mature than our siblings’ since we’ve been exposed to their past faults.
Sibling rivalry is a constant. There’s a battle for center of attention as Cyrene’s prom and Brooklyn’s marathon are held on the same day. Brooklyn has the notion that her parents continue to brush off her dreams and goals in favor of her younger siblings’, due to her rough past. Her point is proven after Ben and Jewel fail to attend Brooklyn’s race and give all the attention to Cyrene’s prom. Brooklyn becomes even more upset when her parents grant Cyrene permission to stay out a bit longer past curfew on prom night. While I can relate more to Cyrene, I have more empathy for Brooklyn: It’s got to be tough to be constantly judged by your past. The competitiveness between the sisters looks like a storyline the series will follow.
Thicker Than Water has potential, but only if there’s balance. There’s hope for Thicker Than Water to be a great series. However, the bragging can come off a bit obnoxious. If the series delves into the family’s work lives as well as the opulent lifestyle, there’s a chance. We do need a bit of reality. Plus, the storylines of siblings and interpersonal problems with the family in-laws serve as great fodder, giving an authenticity needed for a great reality family series.
Thicker Than Water airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.