It's possible to deal with race in a funny way. This is not how.
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots. I know some people will be all "These are reviews." If you've read me, you've read my reviews and you know this isn't what they look like.]
Airs:Tuesdays at 8 p.m.
The Pitch: "Hi, I'm Seth Mac..." "Sold!"
Quick Response: Sigh. OK. I guess I have to do this. A lot has been made of Brenda Song in a schoolgirl outfit as if that's inherently evil. It's not. The problem is that you have two white guys in a position of power forcing a character (who already joked about her strict father beating her with math books) played by a Vietnamese-Thai (by way of Sacramento) actress to fulfill a fetishistic stereotype that is primarily seen as being representative of Japanese culture as a way of wooing Chinese investors (or "Orientals" as one of the eponymous dads calls them), but despite this across-the-board "one size fits all" ignorance, nobody at any point has an iota of self-awareness that they're getting everything wrong or is made aware of their ignorance and, in fact, the plan is validated amidst schoolgirl giggling and additional jokes about diminutive Asian penises. The result is that the punchlines aren't at the expense of ANY of the show's on-screen characters and are, instead, at the general expense of all Asians, that Asians from one country can be manipulated through stereotypes that don't even apply to their culture and must bear the weight of all pan-Asian stereotypes, because nobody writing the darned show can be bothered with specificity. And, for the most part, that's how "Dads" rolls. It just happens that there's an astounding preponderance of Asian jokes in the pilot, so that's the advocacy group that's getting ticked off NOW. A joke about how one character's doddering father once thought "Shiite" sounds like "S***" isn't at that character's expense, but rather at how a religious group's name sounds like feces. The joke "Whatcha playing? Punch the Puerto Rican?" isn't directed at the character who says it, but rather you're supposed to roar at the audacity that anybody would say such a thing at all. I laugh at "Family Guy" and when "Family Guy" is at its sharpest, I usually think that its jokes about race flow either from character or from a commentary on racial assumptions, rather from merely a place of, "Aren't we being edgy!" And yes, as Seth Green told us at press tour, there are also jokes about white guys in the pilot, but I think that even Seth would have to admit that the number of jokes relating specifically to whiteness -- not just jokes directed at characters who happen to be white -- is far smaller than the number of jokes relating specifically to NON-whiteness. And why on earth is a show in which only one main character isn't white -- Sorry, Seth MacFarlane, but your thick-accented Latina maids don't count as "characters" -- building so many of its punchlines around race in the first place? Why not build your main characters first? And if you want us to like them, why not make something *other* than "slightly racist" the first characteristic I'd used to describe every male character on the show? Simply put: "Dads" isn't a bad comedy *because* it's racist. It's racist because it's bad comedy that over-relies on lazy jokes involving race. [Actually, it may be both, but whatever...] FOX Chief Kevin Reilly is right when he says "Dads" just isn't properly calibrated. That extends to the performances. The two main characters should be roughly equals, but Seth Green is working so big that Giovanni Ribisi has no room to breathe and is basically an afterthought. Martin Mull and Peter Riegert shout every punchline and the audience hoots correspondingly and bafflingly. That it's a grating, unfunny mess is the biggest "Dads" crime, with racism somewhere in the distance.
Desire To Watch Again: Kevin Reilly says to give "Dads" more time and I'm not opposed to that. I've never regretting sticking with "Parks and Recreation." I've only sometimes regretted sticking with "The Big Bang Theory." Of course, I've never stopped regretting sticking with "2 Broke Girls," but it should never be said that I don't give comedies time. In this case, though, if network executives know that the "Dads" pilot is poorly calibrated, but believe in the long-term integrity of the show, why air a pilot that is guaranteed to piss viewers off? Is the cost of ditching the pilot so much higher than the cost of alienating your audience Week 1? Or is FOX assuming that this controversy will be more effective than the show's lame marketing strategy? For what it's worth, I could do a rewrite of the Brenda Song scenes and fix *that* mess, but it wouldn't make the rest of the pilot funny. But I'll give "Dads" a few more episodes out of respect for Mike Scully, whose addition to the production team is the lone thing giving me hope.
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Super Fun Night'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Welcome to the Family'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Millers'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'The Goldbergs'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Ironside'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'We Are Men'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Almost Human'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Back in the Game'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'Sean Saves the World'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'Reign'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'The Crazy Ones'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Enlisted'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Betrayal'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Blacklist'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: The CW's 'The Tomorrow People'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: CBS' 'Hostages'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: FOX's 'Sleepy Hollow'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: ABC's 'Trophy Wife'
Take Me To The Pilots '13: NBC's 'The Michael J. Fox Show'
All of my 2012 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2011 Take Me To The Pilots Entries
All of my 2010 Take Me To The Pilots Entries