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The Baxters

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Paul Asay

TV Series Review

From the outside, the Baxter family might seem a little too good to be true.

Just look at them, John and Elizabeth and their five grown, picture-perfect kids (Kari, Ashley, Erin, Brooke and Luke). Take a gander at one of their (many, many) family photos, and you’d assume that, growing up, the Baxter children rarely brought home a grade lower than a B+; that acne medication was unneeded; that curfews were reliably observed, vegetables reliably eaten. Yes, even the broccoli. The Baxters, you’d imagine, would play board games. Sing camp songs on long family road trips. And most especially, they’d pray together.

Yep, from the outside, the Baxters look like they did pert near everything right. And perhaps some of us—after a long day filled with failures and disappointments—might look at the family and wonder, “Why can’t my family be more like that?”

But here’s the thing: No family, no matter how convincing those smiles might be in those ever-attractive photos, escapes its share of trouble.

Some Show Like This

Sure, the Baxters might seem to break the curve for many a family. But inside the family itself, Kari’s so all-around great that she just might make some of her own siblings roll their eyes. She’s a successful decorator. She’s a deeply attentive friend. She’s married to a talented journalism professor, and she’s imbued with an unshakeable sense of faith.

Yep, if any Baxter kid has it all together, it’d be Kari, right? Nothing could ever go wrong for Kari.

But hold the phone: What’s this? Kari’s husband, Jim, is having an affair? With one of his students? And he’s ready to leave Kari for Angela, this other woman?

“What about your faith?” Kari asks Jim when she learns of the affair. “Your promise to God?”

“God knows we’re not perfect people,” Jim says. “We’re all just trying to do what makes us happy. And being with Angela makes me happy.”

Sure, the couple has had their share of rocky patches. But this crisis—this is something else entirely. And even though Jim’s infidelity is a wicked betrayal, Kari’s not ready to give up on this marriage. And when she tells her worried parents about Jim’s dalliance, she asks one thing of them: “Try not to hate him.”

No, Kari’s life isn’t perfect. Far from it. But that imperfect life comes with one huge difference-maker: faith. Even though she’s well within her biblical bounds to wash her hands of this relationship and walk away, Kari believes that God has other plans for her and Jim. And even as some in her own family encourage her to move on, Kari sees another path forward—one grounded in faith, fidelity and forgiveness.

But when an old flame steps back into her life, will Kari change her mind?

Finding Home … On Amazon Prime

It’s been quite the spring for bestselling Christian author Karen Kingsbury. Her big-screen adaptation of her book Someone Like You is being released on April 2—right on the heels of The Baxters television series debut on Amazon’s Prime Video.

But the development of The Baxters TV show was no more charmed, nor its path easier, than that of Kingsbury’s Baxter family. It was the product of decades of hard work, perseverance and prayer.

In an interview with Adam Holz on The Plugged In Show, Kingsbury says that she wrote her very first Baxters book—Redemption, the book that’s the basis for the show’s first season—in her late 20s or early 30s, very early on in her career. And when she showed the first book to her father, he told her, “Karen, this has got to be a TV show!” He suggested that she get in touch with “that Roma Downey woman,” who’d made her mark in the CBS series Touched by an Angel.

Kingsbury told her dad that she didn’t have Downey’s phone number. But turns out, she didn’t need it. Fifteen years later, Downey approached Kingsbury and asked for her blessing to develop a TV show based on the Baxters. The two worked on the show for years—filming its first three seasons before The Baxters ever found a streaming home.

“The whole time, the prayer was that it would be on something as big as Amazon’s Prime Video—big enough that even the whole world could see it,” she told Holz. Earlier this year, that prayer was answered.

That feels altogether fitting, given what Kingsbury tries to do with her Baxters books. Certainly, the family is unapologetically tight-knit. But perfect? Hardly. Its characters deal with difficult, real-world issues. They make mistakes. They question or sometimes leave their faith.

But if there’s a throughline in all the Baxters stories, it’s this: While the Baxter kids sometimes walk away from God, God never walks away from them. Nor does their family. Elizabeth and John are always there for their children, in good times and bad, in sickness and health. And when you have faith and family in your corner, it can help you navigate obstacles and difficulties that are far from picture perfect.

The Baxters is quite clean. But because the show does deal with some messy realities, it’s not antiseptic. We see some nods toward sexual intimacy. Difficult conversations and arguments can fray relationships. People make mistakes.

But all those are done with an eye toward Kingsbury’s endgame: forgiveness, redemption and love. Every rocky path potentially leads toward a sunnier horizon.

Episode Reviews

Mar. 28, 2024—S1, E1: “Under the Surface”

It’s Mother’s Day, and members of the Baxter family gathers to honor their mom, Elizabeth. There’s just one conspicuous absence: Tim, Kari’s husband, is off at yet another conference. But later, Kari receives a mysterious call from someone telling her that those “conferences” are a ruse: Jim is actually having an affair.

Kari is, of course, heartbroken, and the rest of the Baxter family is outraged. “I could kill him!” Elizabeth says. But Kari won’t give Jim the divorce he’s seeking. “I’m holding onto the same vows that held you together all these years,” she tells her parents. Love, she says, is a choice; a choice you make every day.

We see Jim and his paramour, Angela, in Angela’s apartment—kissing and unbuttoning shirts and whatnot before sex. Later, the two talk about punting societal norms for lives of unfettered freedom. “My mom always said live life to the fullest,” Angela, clad in a bathrobe, tells Jim. And Jim tells Angela that he feels “free” when he’s with her. When Kari confronts Jim about the affair, Jim expresses frustration with Kari’s close connection with her family. He takes off his wedding ring, leaves it on a Bible and walks out the door.

The episode begins with the Bible verse James 1:3: “You know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance,” an opening slide tells us. In flashback, we learn that Kari and Jim actually met in a college Bible study led by Jim. When Elizabeth has something of a premonition that all is not well with Kari and Jim, she and John say a prayer for them. “We know they are not beyond your mighty hand,” John says. “Be with them in your special way … that you shower them with Your love. And Your beautiful grace.”

A conversation between Kari and Ashley suggests that Ashley has moved away from God; Kari suggests that Ashley’s also failing as a mother.

Elsewhere, Kari vomits in a toilet. Someone seems on the edge of swearing before being interrupted. A character appears to try to buy steroids. Angela mentions that Italians drink wine for breakfast if they want. A picture is smashed. We hear some references to past family tragedies, including the death of a little girl. A lie is told.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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