“Cynicism be gone!” Jason Bateman told TV critics during NBC’s Q&A session for new comedy Growing Up Fisher about a kid who played a large role in helping his father cover up his blindness until dad gets a guide dog when his parents divorce. (Watch trailer below) It’s based on the actual childhood of show creator/exec producer DJ Nash — including the pilot scene in which Dad, played by J.K. Simmons, cuts down a tree in the yard with a chainsaw while asking family members where the house is relative to the tree. Even so, TV critics at Winter TV Press Tour 2014 had trouble with the concept, and with the tone.
“Where’s the tears and the drama?” one critic asked of the pilot. It’s a comedy. Batemen, who exec produces and is The Voiceover Guy on the show, said they made a conscious decision to do Growing Up as a family show but with a new take and less treacle, so as to appeal to today’s maybe more cynical TV viewer.
NBC will preview Growing Up Fisher on February 23 at 10:30 PM, following the Sochi Games Closing Ceremonies. (Following the 2012 debacle when a preview of new NBC comedy Animal Practice aired before the end of the Olympics closing ceremony, Greenblatt today promised no interruption this time.) After that, it will be paired in the Tuesday 9 PM block with About A Boy, following The Voice, starting February 25.
One critic, who noted NBC’s Olympics coverage probably will include “300 promotional spots” for the show, wondered if the producers worried there would be backlash from viewers who felt the show was being “shoved down their throats.”
Nash explained patiently that NBC has a plan for the show that involves getting promos for it in front of the eyes watching the Olympics, and is “really setting us up to succeed.” The critic explained the question came from a place of knowledge — the folks behind NBC’s short-lived Animal Practice having suggested viewers backlashed against their show’s in-Game promos and Closing Ceremonies-interrupting preview. Nash and Batemen took the high road and declined to go down that path.
Another critic wondered what Nash’s father thinks of being the subject of a comedy series and how he is portrayed. Nash said his dad likes the pilot. “It’s a pretty good Father’s Day gift,” he said. “And he says it sounds good,” Batement joked. Critics guffawed. “Thank you – that’s all I’ve got,” he added.
Critics wondered if viewers would find the concept plausible. Simmons admitted he’d had some trouble with it initially, until he read the script and met with Nash and Nash’s dad.
“My dad being blind is the 17th thing that’s wrong with him,” Nash explained, then ticked off some of the top 16 things including “stubborn” and “a lawyer.”
And, anticipating critics’ concern/reviews, Nash said the dog in the series is not a trained guide dog because “I don’t want to take a guide dog away from a blind guy” and because it was more important to have a dog that could hit its marks and stop at a construction hole on cue, and not be phased by 167 crew members, than to have that verisimilitudinous touch.