Why do I do the things I do? Why do I willingly submit myself to horrors like Fox’s Dads, which may have one of the worst TV pilots of all time? Because I love you guys, and like a reporter willingly allowing himself to be tasered in order to better report on a story involving police brutality, it takes a little pain to get to the truth.
But it’s only twenty minutes, you say. True, but did you know the more awful a show is, the more the laws of space-time are bent and minutes turn into hours? Yes, it was twenty minutes, but it felt like a year by the time it was over, and I resisted the urge to turn it off about every thirty seconds. Or every time I wanted to punch Seth Green. Which was about every thirty seconds.
The premise of the Seth MacFarlane-created sitcom can be explained a single sentence. Two 30-something video game developers (Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi) are annoyed when circumstances for their annoying fathers to move back in with them.
I like Seth MacFarlane. I like video games. I like Giovanni Ribisi and I even like Seth Green most of the time. What’s the problem here?
We’ll start with the biggest complaint about the show that comes up in nearly every review, it’s horribly, horribly offensive. The show claims the plan is that it will end up making fun of ALL racial, gender and social groups as it continues, but the pilot REALLY goes out of its way to disrespect Asians specifically in every possible way.
The biggest uproar can be found when Brenda Song, an employee of the duo’s game company, is told to dress up as a “sexy Asian schoolgirl” in order to impress Chinese investors. She ends up looking like a cross between Baby One More Time Britney and Sailor Moon, and manages to offend both Asians and women and pretty much anyone who knows Asians or women. If that’s not enough, the Chinese are wowed by the “cool rock and roll American” Seth, and the episode ends with Song sharing a photo the Chinese translator sent her of his tiny Asian penis, with the entire cast spending the outro comparing it to various objects like inch worms or peanuts.
Like, Jesus Christ.
Family Guy has been getting away with this for years on some level, but when you move it from animation to real life, it becomes really uncomfortable, really fast. What I don’t understand is that MacFarlane has demonstrated he CAN do live action comedy effectively as he did with Ted, so what happened here? What’s the excuse?
In addition to being overtly, unironically racist, it’s all just So. Not. Funny. The video game company’s title they pitch the Chinese is a Hitler killing simulator that looks like a Newgrounds flash game from 2002. The two leads spend five minutes comparing their dad’s various flaws which include throat-clearing and greeting kisses, only to have Song stop by and say her dad “beat her with a math book” as a child. Whoops, one more Asian stereotype I left out of the earlier paragraph. In only twenty minutes, it’s truly amazing how many of those they managed to cram in. Sadly, “bad driving” must have been left on the editing room floor.
Speaking of the editing room, the show is oddly cut. Each scene seems to last no more than 30 to 45 seconds apiece, and each ends with a joke that doesn’t land with the laugh track awkwardly fading into a commercial or another even unfunnier scene. It’s nearly as jarring as the jokes themselves.
You can say the sitcom is dead, and laugh tracks can kill shows that would otherwise be okay, but that’s just not the case here. As I recently discussed in my Big Bang Theory post, sitcoms still may have a place in the world, but shows that are as empirically awful as Dads don’t. It’s hard to know whether you should hate it because of how it relies on agism, sexism and racism to craft most of its jokes, or because both its offensive and innocuous jokes are JUST SO HORRIBLY UNFUNNY. Forget Asians, Dads is offensive to the very concept of comedy.
Granted I don’t watch every new crappy pilot that airs every year and gets cancelled shortly after, but Dads is one of the worst twenty minutes of television I’ve ever managed to watch. I did, so you don’t have to, and please, please don’t let my sacrifice be in vain.