UPDATE, 6:50 AM: Fox has declined the Media Action Network for Asian Americans’ suggestion it re-shoot its Dads pilot in order to remove the scene it finds most offensive. In the scene, business partners Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi have Brenda Song’s employee character dress up in sexy Asian Schoolgirl costume and giggle demurely to please Chinese businessmen.
Down the road, Fox execs promised the organization, “You will see that Brenda Song’s character is a strong, intelligent, empowered young woman who basically runs the company, and who almost always gets the upper hand.” They also said the show, from Seth MacFarlane and team, “is a show that will be evocative and will poke fun at stereotypes and bigotries — sometimes through over-the-top, ridiculous situations,” adding, “The series is based heavily on the executive producers’ own lives, and the relationships between the fathers and sons on Dads will continue to be the main driver of show’s comedic sensibility. Everyone involved with Dads is striving to create a series with humor that works on multiple levels and ‘earns’ its audaciousness.”
PREVIOUS, AUGUST 15: The Media Action Network for Asian Americans says it’s waiting to hear back from Fox execs in response to a letter it sent Monday asking the network to reshoot some “racist” scenes in the pilot of Fox’s new Seth MacFarlane live-action comedy series, Dads. Fox says it has been in the process of responding. Word of the kerfuffle got out this afternoon when MANAA took the issue to the press. In case you didn’t get the screener MANAA saw back in July, Dads is about two video game developers (Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi) with cranky old dads (Martin Mull and Peter Reigert) who move in to their place. Sometimes the dads say stupid racist things. Mull’s character, for instance, calls Asians “Orientals,” and says, of Chinese people, “There’s a reason ‘Shanghai’ is a verb.” TV critics don’t like the show much either, and said so at the recent Summer TCA Press Tour. Fox Entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly placated them somewhat by telling them the show will need to recalibrate and find the right comedic balance. MANAA wants the pilot recalibrated before it premieres.
In particular, the group took issue with a scene in which the sons are about to meet with Chinese businessmen and ask their Asian employee Veronica (Brenda Song) to dress up as a sexy schoolgirl. Green’s character suggests she also giggle demurely — “which is more a Japanese stereotype,” MANAA noted. “Supposedly all was made right when the Chinese agreed to the deal after the ‘creepy interpreter’ sent a picture of his penis to Song, who, predictably, said that it was tiny,” the organization complained in its letter, a copy of which was sent to the media this afternoon.
At the screening back in July, the group said, one of the producers tried to excuse the racial/sexist humor as coming from the dads, who are of an older generation and “don’t know any better”. However, MANAA noted, the whole sexy, giggling Asian schoolgirl thing came from the sons. The organization also noted that, “given the level of hostility we felt in the Dads pilot, perhaps it should come as no surprise” that series co-creator Alec Sulkin had tweeted on the day of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, “If you wanna feel better about this earthquake in Japan, Google ‘Pearl Harbor death toll’.” (Sulkin later took down that tweet, explaining apologetically, in another tweet: “Yesterday death toll = 200. Today = 10 thousand. I am sorry for my insensitive tweet. It’s gone.” On the bright side, he got to recycle the gag, tweeting shortly after Hurricane Sandy struck New Jersey, “If I you want to feel better about the floods in New Jersey, google MTV’s Jersey Shore.” )
MANAA founding president Guy Aoki told Deadline the problems with the handling of race in a sitcom aren’t unique to Fox, citing CBS’ 2 Broke Girls in which, he claimed, the Asian guy is frequently the butt of the jokes but never the black guy in the diner. “They are fearful of black people who are angry,” Aoki said of the TV industry, adding “at this point they are not fearful of angry Asian people. That’s why [MANAA] exists.”