‘Nuclear Family’ Docuseries Premieres on HBO Sept. 26

Nuclear Family on HBO
(Image credit: HBO)

HBO docuseries Nuclear Family, a three-parter that sees Ry Russo-Young look into her past while examining the meaning of family, starts Sept. 26. Russo-Young directs. 

“In the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, when the concept of a gay family was inconceivable to most, Ry and her sister Cade were born to two lesbian mothers through sperm donors,” said HBO. “Ry’s idyllic childhood was threatened by an unexpected lawsuit, which sent shockwaves through her family’s lives and continues to reverberate today.”

In 1979 Sandra Russo and Robin Young fell in love and sought to start a family. Each woman gave birth to a daughter using different sperm donors, both gay men living in northern California whom they were introduced to by a mutual friend. The daughters, Cade and Ry, were raised in New York City by Russo and Robin, who told them they didn’t have fathers, but men who had “helped make them.” 

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In 1991, Ry’s donor, Tom Steel, sued the mothers for paternity and visitation rights. The lawsuit lasted for years and Russo, who was not Ry’s biological mother, was not allowed in the courtroom. 

“An exploration of love, loyalty, loss and the immutable power of family in all its configurations, Nuclear Family eloquently examines the dynamics that enrich and complicate the bonds of love,” said HBO. 

Nuclear Family is a Story Syndicate production presented by Big Beach, Impact Partners and Topic Studios in association with Bunker and Sustainable Films. Executive producers are Liz Garbus, Jon Bardin, Julie Gaither, Jenny Raskin, Geralyn Dreyfous, Lauren Haber, Peter Saraf, Leah Holzer, Alex Turtletaub, Maria Zuckerman, Christine Connor, Ryan Heller, Barbara & Eric Dobkin, Andrea Van Beuren and Joe Landauer. 

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.