Meet the Sullivans, a mixed-race all-American TV family, who is changing the way we view normal.
by ADA TSENG
At the Sullivan & Son neighborhood bar, where the majority of Steve Byrne’s TBS sitcom takes place, there’s an eye-catching wall display on stage right: an American flag, a Korean flag and an Irish flag, equal nods to Byrne’s nationality and the ethnicities of both his real-life and on-screen parents. But if you look closer, it’s the American flags that dominate the set, decorating the cash register and adorning the opposite wall. And, after all, this is an all-American family show—it just so happens that this particular one, the Sullivans, is of mixed race.
Now in its second season, the series follows Steve Sullivan, a man who gave up his high-paying corporate attorney job to come home and run his family’s bar in Pittsburgh. His father, Jack, and mother, Ok Cha (incidentally, also the name of Byrne’s real-life mother), are loosely based on the comedian’s own parents, a friendly, laid-back Irishman and a tough Korean woman one might describe as a “Tiger Mom.”
“I’m proud of both sides of my family,” says Byrne, the show’s creator, producer and star. “On one hand, our [show’s] storylines can be different because we have an eccentric background that isn’t displayed on TV all the time, but at the end of the day, it’s the same themes. Everybody loves and hurts. Everyone has the same emotions and problems. We’re a normal American family.”
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