Is the new Fox series “Dads” a dud?
According to many of the critics who have reviewed the new sitcom from executive producer Seth MacFarlane, the answer is yes. But some are also saying it’s more than just a creative misfire, it’s also blatantly offensive.
“It’s racist, homophobic, sexist, ageist,” says Maggie Furlong, West Coast editor for HuffPost TV. “You name it, (producers) were just piling on the many, many offenses.”
The show revolves around a pair of friends, Eli (Seth Green) and Warner (Giovanni Ribisi), who own a video game startup. “Comedy” ensues when the guys’ dads (played by Peter Riegert and Martin Mull, respectively) unexpectedly move in with them.
OK, nothing too offensive there, although the premise doesn’t score many points for originality.
But in the pilot episode, it doesn’t take long for some questionable humor to crop up: Eli and Warner force an Asian-American co-worker to dress as an anime nymphet to titillate potential Chinese investors, and Warner’s dad declares, “You can’t trust (Chinese people). There’s a reason ‘Shanghai’ is a verb.”
“It’s incredibly racist toward Asian people,” said Guy Aoki, founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans. His organization asked Fox to reshoot the pilot to cut out what it considered the most offensive material, but the network refused.
“We’re really surprised … they’re going to broadcast it as is,” Aoki told CNN. “I mean, how can you have an episode which is so ‘anti’ any one group?”
It’s small consolation to Aoki that gays and Latinos are also the butt of jokes in the pilot. The show includes a Latina housekeeper (who naturally speaks in “comically” broken English) and at one point, Warner’s Latina wife is mistaken for a maid.
“Seth Green, Giovanni Ribisi, Peter Riegert, Martin Mull — people who have been in this business for a very long time, saying these words, is 100 percent cringeworthy,” Furlong told CNN. “It’s not OK.”
Fox has taken the novel approach of making a virtue of all the criticism.
It released a “Dads” promo countering the bad reviews (“offensive,” “reprehensible,” “morally wrong”) with positive comments from fans who apparently watched a taping of the sitcom. One such fan urges, “Don’t listen to the critics!”
But there are indications network executives have listened to the critics. The second episode of “Dads,” which Fox provided to reviewers, featured much less politically incorrect humor, although it did include an anti-Semitic joke (playing off the stereotype that Jews “love a bargain”).
“Fox has said, ‘We’ve heard you. Give (“Dads”) a chance. We understand. We’re going to dial it back,’ “ Furlong told CNN.
Fox Entertainment Chief Kevin Reilly promised as much at a presentation to critics in August.
“Do I think all the jokes right now are in calibration in the pilot? I don’t,” Reilly told journalists. But, he added, “I have never seen a comedy in which all the jokes are in calibration.”
Co-creator Wellesley Wild told reporters at that August presentation, “We want to keep [“Dads”] insulting and irreverent, but the most important thing is that it’s funny. If we missed the mark in the pilot, we’re shooting to hit it better in upcoming shows.”
But Furlong is among the critics who don’t think the second episode — although less offensive — was any funnier than the pilot.
“It’s offensively bad,” she told CNN. “It’s just not funny, and I think that’s the biggest problem.”
“Dads” premieres Tuesday night on Fox.
Matthew Carey | CNN