Dads Series Premiere Review: “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)


Who is responsible for the flagrantly unfunny bricolage of stereotypes that is FOX’s Dads?

I find it hard to believe that the show’s producers, Family Guy writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, could find the script for their new show’s pilot even remotely amusing. Perhaps I’m just in denial – terrible, terrible writers get jobs in Hollywood all the time. But there’s a particular kind of hurt I felt after watching Dads (in addition to total disgust, anger and despair). To put it simply, I felt betrayed – betrayed by FOX, betrayed by the show’s should-have-known-better cast and mostly betrayed by the man who made it all possible – comedian Seth MacFarlane, who can be a seriously funny guy when he wants to be.

Alas, Dads makes Family Guy, for all its offensive off-brand humor, look like Breaking Bad. Typically, when I discuss films or television, I attempt to find some positive aspects of whatever I’m reviewing; in Dads‘ case, I couldn’t find a thing, except for the idea that it might be quickly met by the swift and merciless fall of the network axe (I fervently hope).

Nothing works in Dads, from its overly-abused laugh track to its dunderheaded, misogynistic dialogue. I can’t help but feel pity for the actors caught in its path of sheer stupidity – after all, Seth Green, Giovanni Ribisi, Martin Mull, Peter Riegart and Brenda Song are all actors capable of acting, if given the material.

All of their talents are utterly squandered, particularly Mull and Riegart, who are resigned to playing old, clueless farts eternally undermined by their vicious sons. No semblance of quality acting is permitted with the lowest-common-denominator script and excruciatingly painful laugh track with which the pilot is saddled.

Song is the sole participant, however, whom I feel 100% sorry for. A budding starlet after roles on two Disney Channel shows, she is violently, unfairly, relentlessly degraded by Sulkin and Wild, who see fit to put her in an offensive Asian schoolgirl outfit to entice pervy businessmen into signing a contract for the main characters’ company. I don’t blame Song, but I fully condemn the blatant, unfunny misogyny Sulkin and Wild appear to view as acceptable. It’s as if they went through the misshapen pile of racist bits that MacFarlane classified as “too tasteless for Family Guy.” In a country like ours, which claims to value people’s diversity, there’s simply no place for a show like Dads.

Ribisi and Green both play abhorrent characters who consistently devalue, humiliate and verbally put-down the women in their lives, not to mention their own fathers, simply for a laugh. Ribisi plays his character as an unlikeable sleaze with zero sympathy for anyone other than himself, while Green is possibly more repugnant as a schmuck of a character so despicable that he belittles his own father and sends him packing at the slightest sign of trouble. Perhaps Dads is hoping to examine what made these two individuals so uniquely loathsome, but that may just be wishful thinking from a show appearing as hare-brained as this.

Unfortunately, the blatant sexism doesn’t stop with Song’s abused character. In her first appearance, Green’s on-screen girlfriend (whom he refuses to acknowledge as anything other than an object to be used for sex) is berated by Green’s character, who screams, “Whatever you are, you’re terrible at it!” And that’s baby town frolics compared to his Latino maid, whom he mercilessly mocks solely for her ethnicity. In Ribisi’s character’s home, the show also panders for laughs by referring to his doting wife as a “maid,” and it seems clear that Sulkin and Wild’s plans for her end on exactly that image.