Fall 2013 Review: Dads

20 Sep

One DadIt’s impressive that the first two shows I’ve watched in the new fall network television series may feature both the best and worst comedy of the season.  Dads, as you may or may not have guessed, is contending for the latter category.  It’s a vile, offensive, hackneyed, and just all-around bad show, but equally if not importantly, it’s simply not funny. At all.

A clever trick bad offensive shows use to gather support is to, well, go on the offensive.  The classic approach is to claim that the reason they get absolutely miserable reviews is not because they’re not funny, but because the establishment and people in the media find them in violation of the current stuck up norms of political correctness.  Real people, they say, like it; it’s for the people, not for the critics. Dads has been taking this approach in commercials, openly acknowledging the poor reception its getting but talking to regular folks who tell other regular folks to ignore the critics.

I implore you to not let that kind of campaign fool you for a second.  I won’t say that there haven’t been reviewers who haven’t unfairly called out shows in the past for being offensive that weren’t, or were perhaps a tad too sensitive at times.  If that is ever the case though, it certainly isn’t here. There are plenty of shows that manage to be quite offensive and challenge existing norms while being both good and hilarious; It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Curb Your Enthusiasm are two that fit the bill.  Dads does not.

Dads is about two successful young entrepreneurs who run a video game company they co-founded. Seth Green plays Eli, the single womanizer, and Giovanni Ribisi plays Warner, who is married to Camilla, played by Vanessa Lachey. Warner’s dad, played by Martin Mull, already lives with him, and is ridiculously inappropriate in both his words and actions. He’s also a horribly unsuccessful businessman, having lost all his money which resulted in his having to come to his son for a place to stay.  He still carries a briefcase everywhere he goes and tries to make deals, though the business world passed him by decades ago; he refers to Chinese as Orientals.  Peter Riegert plays Eli’s dad. Riegert asks to move in with Eli at the end of the first episode, because he, like Mull, is out of money.  Both sons can’t stand their dads, who make their lives unbearable when they’re around more often than not.  I’m not sure if there’s supposed to be an undercurrent of actual love between the sons and the dads or not. The show seems to imply that deep down somewhere the sons care about the dads, at least enough to offer them a place to stay, but just about no one seems to like anybody else in this show.

I’d honestly rather not spend anymore time on any problems with the show’s offensiveness; the problems are so vast and blatant and I only want to talk about this show for so long; other people can handle those if they wish.  I’d rather spend that time on the show’s badness.  First of all, and this is just low hanging fruit, there’s a laugh track.  Seriously?  This is the time where I mention that this is executively produced by Seth MacFarlane and created by two Ted co-writers.  There’s always been a serious love for the retrograde in Family Guy, but come on. Family Guy has plenty of misses but turn on a random episode and I’d bet there’ll be three solid laughs, possibly hidden away in flashbacks and cutaways. That’s three more than Dads. To say this feels like the writers haven’t watched a sitcom in the last decade is an understatement.  The laughs the writers think they’re getting don’t work, and the laugh track would muck up any comic timing if there was any to begin with.

The central joke of the show is supposed to be that the dads are really irritating people and that these two successful sons have to put up with them, but the real joke, if you could even call it that is they are all terrible people, at least the four main characters.  The female perspective is limited to Warner’s wife, whose main role in the pilot is to have to deal with a naked Martin Mull, and Brenda Song, who works with the guys, and whose main role in the pilot is to dress up as a Japanese school girl to impress a group of Chinese businessman.  The first episode does not come particularly close to passing the Bechdel test. I keep trying to avoid coming back to how offensive it is though. Let’s try again.  The problem with the show isn’t that they seem like obnoxious people; the Always Sunny characters are obnoxious people and Sunny is great. The problem is that the central joke of the show, as I mentioned, isn’t funny.  The guys aren’t funny.  The jokes are obvious and unbelievably unsubtle, and because they’re so obvious I don’t know how they got to air without somebody at Fox or some writer on the staff pointing out how bad they were.  For example, Green and Ribisi make an unfunny joke about which of their fathers will pick up the check when they meet for lunch, since they’re both famous cheapskakes, and it’s not funny then. In case we didn’t get the point, though,  there’s an especially excruciating scene where Mull and Reigert sneeze and blow the check back and forth between one other after their meal because they both don’t want to pay, as their sons correctly predicted.

Honestly I thought I would enjoy writing about this show coming in, because I normally have some fun writing about bad shows, but this doesn’t even have the how-did-a-show-with-this-premise-get-on-TV factor like Work It or fit into every amazing obvious genre stereotype like Made in Jersey.  It’s just awful.  Avoid at all costs.

Will I watch it again?  No.  It’s a truly terrible show and I hope it gets cancelled soon to send a lesson to the networks to think twice before making something like this. It’s a shame, in particular, because it’s the only weak spot in what otherwise may be shaping up as the best night in network comedy (Fox Tuesdays) since the heyday of NBC Thursdays a couple of years back.

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