When did ABC Family (soon to be Freeform) become the go-to channel for cutting-edge dramas? From pregnancies to foster families to abandoned kids, every show seems to be pushing as many boundaries as it can. But somehow the channel still seems to fly under the radar. Sure, they have a few shows that became overly popular—like Pretty Little Liars, or The Secret Life of the American Teenager—but most of their programs never really hit it big in mainstream media. Which is a shame, as they have some of the best, most heartfelt programs on TV.
In order to raise awareness, here are three underrated ABC Family gems (and one book!) that you should definitely be binging:
If you think you can handle a little casual drug use, sexually active teenagers, physical abuse, unconventional families and some pseudo-incest, then The Fosters is for you. It might sound a bit scary, but it’s actually one of the sweetest shows around. It tells the story of a lesbian couple raising a family of adopted kids, biological kids and foster kids. The house is already pretty full when they take in Callie and Jude, who bounced around the foster care system for years. Callie is jaded and tough, and things get extra-complicated when she starts to fall for her foster brother Brandon. Over the past three seasons there has been too much drama to even begin to recount, which is why you should be binging this heartfelt blended-family show.
ABC Family has never met an issue they didn’t like, and in this family-focused drama, the issues are front and center. Basically, two teen girls realize they were mistakenly switched at birth. Their families couldn’t be more different, coming from varying socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, and dealing with vastly different problems. Bay is living in relative privilege, while her switched at birth companion Daphne is deaf and living with a single mother who’s struggling to pay the rent. Over the years, their families start to blend, while the girls deal with first loves, jealousy and their complicated relationships to their parents. The show is in the middle of its fourth season, so now’s a perfect time to binge-watch.
For slightly lighter fare, try Baby Daddy, a sitcom about bachelor Ben and the baby he never thought he’d have. He’s a single guy in NYC, more interested in partying than settling down, when his ex leaves a baby on his doorstep. Now, with the help of his roommate, brother, mom, and the girl next door, he has to figure out how to raise this kid. Soon entering its fifth season, Baby Daddy is a cute, fun show that’s surprisingly emotional (when will Ben and his neighbor Riley finally get together?), and definitely worth a binge.
Plus One Book:
See Me by Nicholas Sparks (Grand Central Publishing; October 13, 2015)
If ever there’s an author who’s ripe for an ABC Family show, it’s Nicholas Sparks. I’m actually surprised he doesn’t already have three of his books in development for them, to be honest. In this latest sob-fest, Colin is running from his past and trying to become a teacher. He falls for Maria, the daughter of Mexican immigrants, whose impressive resume is clouded by her traumatic history. They meet in the rain—obviously, this is Nicholas Sparks we’re talking about—but their love story is tested by the demons that still exist in their past. ABC Family, time to jump on this one while you still can: it hits bookstores everywhere on October 13.