By Alec Stern, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 20, 2013
In Jan., FOX execs gave an untitled sitcom, from the writers of “Ted,” a direct-to-series commitment based on the supposed strength of the pilot script and the creative team attached, which included “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane. It’s a rare move for a network to make; typically it’ll wait until a pilot has filmed until it makes the decision to pick up the series. This week, the previously untitled series, now “Dads,” finally aired, causing critics and audiences alike to let out a resounding, “What were they thinking?!”
Tuesdays @ 8
More like this
“Dads” is a sitcom that caters to the lowest common denominator and succeeds in not evoking so much as a grin throughout the entirety of the pilot episode. While it’s mindlessly offensive and unbelievably racist, “Dads” ’s biggest crime is that it’s a comedy that just isn’t funny.
“Dads” focuses on two successful video game designers, Seth Green (“Austin Powers”) and Giovanni Ribisi (“Ted”), whose lives are turned upside-down when their dads, played by Peter Riegert (“The Mask”) and Martin Mull (“Arrested Development”) move in with them. The cast is rounded out by Brenda Song (“The Social Network”), who is an employee at the video game company, and Vanessa Lachey (“Wipeout”), the wife to Ribisi’s Warner.
Despite what seems like a solid team, both behind and in front of the camera, almost nothing about this comedy works. At every turn, “Dads” is racist, homophobic, sexist, anti-Semitic … the list goes on and on. While offensive comedy might be endearing when it comes from the mouth of an animated baby or a teddy bear, it doesn’t really have the same effect when it comes from four privileged white men.
One of the biggest issues the public already has with “Dads” is the scene in which Song’s character is forced to wear a “sexy, Asian schoolgirl outfit” in order to land a deal with Chinese investors. Even before the show’s premiere, there were groups insisting FOX re-shoot the pilot in order to remove this from the episode. However, removing one racist plot point among a sea of racism wouldn’t have done any good. In just 22 minutes, “Dads” could potentially offend every race and ethnicity there is. This is the kind of show in which characters hold grudges over “Indian food burps,” create video games called, “Kill Hitler” (in which you can stab Hitler with a menorah) and exploit the only gay character like he’s an animal in a zoo.
“Where’s your gay guy? Show me your gay guy!” Crawford says. After one of the employees in the background raises his hand, he quickly shouts back at him, “You go, girl!”
It’s a shame that this was the show chosen to launch FOX’s revamped Tuesday comedy block. It’s even more of a shame that “Dads” serves as the lead-in to “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” which is undoubtedly one of the best comedy pilots in years. Whereas “Dads” buys into every stereotype in the book, Andy Samberg’s new comedy actively works to subvert them. “Nine-Nine” is set in a world where there are just as many female detectives as there are male, where minorities aren’t a minority in the workplace and where police captains can be of any sexual orientation.
In the following hour, “New Girl” continues to be one of the funniest and sweetest comedies on television, while Mindy Kaling is one of the few Indian-American women to ever have a starring role in a network series. Kaling not only stars in “The Mindy Project” … she runs the whole damn thing. But infuriatingly, 90 minutes earlier, we’re still supposed to be laughing when Crawford confuses his son’s Spanish wife for the maid.
Perhaps even more offensive than the blatant offensiveness is the laziness with which “Dads” seems to have been made. From the sets, to the pacing, to the unbearable laugh track, this series marks a new low for broadcast sitcoms. FOX has been so creatively successful in the comedy department recently that the existence of this series is all the more puzzling.