Fox may have a multi-cam comedy hit on its hands in Dads, judging by the thwapping TV critics gave it today at Summer TV Press Tour 2013. It was the kind of brawl the tour hasn’t seen since the 2 Broke Girls Q&A back in that sitcom’s first season– and we all know what a hit that show’s turned out to be for CBS. The series, from Seth MacFarlane (much not-loved by TV critics, and a no-show at the session) and other producers behind MacFarlane’s animated Family Guy and flick Ted, stars Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi as childhood BFF’s turned gaming entrepreneur/biz partners, whose lives become sitcom material when both their dads, played by Peter Riegert and Martin Mull, move in with them. They provide lines like asking their son if he’s watching Punch The Puerto Rican when they see a boxing match on TV.
But it’s not left to just the actors in Dumbass Old Guy roles to provide the show’s racist humor, a la All In The Family. Green and Ribisi’s characters tell their Asian female staffer, played by Brenda Song, to dress up as a sexy Asian school girl to impress Chinese clients. Mostly Mike Scully, Wellesley Wild and Alec Sulkin let the TV critics take whacks at them without putting up much of a fight. Of the sexy Asian schoolgirl scene, Sulkin said if the comedy “didn’t land, we understand that.” In response to one critic’s suggestion that animated characters can pull off racially charged cracks while they may not work when actual actors say the lines, Scully acknowledged obsequiously, “There’s a level of reality removed in animation that lets you get away with more,“ he began, then corrected himself and continued, “that lets the audience accept more, and we’ll find that as we go.” He also promised “We don’t want the show to be the racial insult comedy show.”
Too late, responded critics in so many words.
“It’s the racist canary in the coal mine” show, Wild offered, but without any vim. Wild didn’t do much better when one critic said he found tiresome the whole Dumbass Aging Dads gag. “It’s tiresome, but it’s real,” he responded.
Critics began to suspect the writer/EP’s had read the transcript from the 2 Broke Girls session at the tour a few seasons back, to see How Not To Handle Hot and Bothered TV Critics at the tour. During that epic session, a much-pummeled EP Michael Patrick King had asked one TV critic his last name, then noted the guy’s name was Irish which meant he was probably drunk. It went downhill from there.
The Dads actors put up more of a fight than did the show’s creators today. “I’ve never done anything in 43 years that somebody didn’t find offensive,” Riegert grumbled. “You need someone to be a jerk in order to see the other side,” Mull insisted. Except they’re all jerks on this show, critics noted. “Just to be fair, this is a disparaging portrayal of white men,” Green said, lamely. Finally, Song — at the center of the show’s whole sexy Asian schoolgirl controversy, jumped in to say that when she saw that scene in the script, she said to herself, “Alright, Brenda, this is your job” but since she’s getting to do what she’s been dreaming about since she was 7 years old and “in such great company,” she can’t complain. By way of defending the writing, she noted she has made “I’m Asian – I’m really good at math” jokes, and that when guys try to hit on her, she has been known to respond, “Ah, sorry. I no speak English.”