Ladies and gentlemen, the first disaster of the fall 2013 TV season has officially arrived. With a massive thud.
Lazily titled Dads, the painfully inept new sitcom premiered on FOX last night, undeservedly sharing Monday night primetime space with the superior returnees New Girl and The Mindy Project, as well as the much better freshman show Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Without a single laugh, Dads insulted everyone who watched it. The surface-level plot involves two video game developers, Warner (Giovanni Ribisi) and Eli (Seth Green), and the mishaps that occur once their unbearable fathers, Crawford (Martin Mull) and David (Peter Reigert), respectively, crash-land in their sons' once-pleasant lives. But Dads doesn't exist to service character or story—if last night's pilot is any indication, it's just an excuse for talented actors who should know better to slum it with a ghoulish barrage of embarrassing racial humor, immature sight gags, and an intrusive, clearly put-on laugh track.
In any other case, a pilot as awful as Dads would be easy to dismiss and completely forget, but this isn't your basic misfire by some unqualified and anonymous TV hacks. No, Dads comes from co-creators Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild and producer Seth MacFarlane, a proven trifecta responsible for the winning animated programs Family Guy and American Dad and last year's hilarious box office smash Ted.
Dads, their first foray into live-action TV, is the trio's creative nadir. Sadly, it's also fuel for Family Guy's passionate haters, of which there are many, to further devalue MacFarlane's hit-or-miss but more often than laugh-out-loud silly series. As in, "Look, we've always said MacFarlane's brand of comedy is bad—Dads proves it."
The similarities are hard to ignore. Like Family Guy, Dads deploys random pop culture references (i.e., a quote from The Untouchables), and the majority of its "comedy" comes at the expense of every ethnic group imaginable. But Family Guy exaggerates the absurdities, tucking the potentially offensive content into cutaways that are hysterically realistic, or spoofs of fictional properties (TV shows, movies, etc.). Plus, by segmenting most of the jokes into these disconnected vignettes, Family Guy allows you to take it or leave it. On Dads, however, there's no separation. Actual human actors are saying these things, and actress Brenda Song is demeaning herself by dressing as a "sexy Asian schoolgirl," in a realistic setting predicated on one stereotype after another. The slights against Puerto Ricans, Muslims, and Spanish women are meant to be as commonplace as "Good morning" and "What's for dinner?"
Before MacFarlane's critical enemies go all Frankenstein's angry mob on everything he's ever worked on, we feel the need to defend Family Guy in the wake of the Dads folly. As you'll see here, the first Dads episode ripped off familiar elements from Family Guy while simultaneously depleting all of the necessary brains and laughs. Thanks to these side-by-side comparisons, Peter Griffin has never looked so esteemed.
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)