Episode 1: Pilot
By: Carlos Uribe
Dads is a show about two video game developers who find themselves in a situation they're not happy with when their dads move in with them.
I'm going to admit something that might mean I would have to return my critic badge if I had one: I didn't hate Dads. I'm not saying Dads is good or funny or inoffensive. I have no intentions of ever watching another episode. At the same time, I didn't hate myself as I was watching the show. I wasn't completely bored out of my mind, I wasn't counting down the minutes until it was over, and I wasn't trying to figure out how anybody thought it would be a good idea to put this on the air. Why was this? I was watching this show as a viewer and as a critic but it wasn't going to satisfy my either ways. The show isn't very entertaining. The non-existent laughs basically testify to that. There is no reason for anyone to ever watch Dads. As a critic, I could point out to the stereotypical characters, the lame premise, the sit-commish nature of the plots, and the recycled jokes. There is literally nothing positive I can say about Dads except for one thing: I found myself actually smiling at certain points. I wasn't enjoying myself, I was very self-aware that I didn't actually like what I was seeing, but Dads found a way to disarm me nonetheless. It managed to capture the one essence of the sit-com that few modern comedies can: the timeless feeling that you could watch this show endlessly. You would never laugh, you would never relate to the characters, but you leave the television on because it's so familiar. Dads isn't the first show to have this effect on me. I could argue that a lot of sit-coms, including some of the hits, have this quality. It's a quality where you're okay with it having it on. Now, granted, most of those sit-coms had some other saving grace but a few didn't. I think the best example of this is King of Queens. That wasn't a very good show (although it wasn't anywhere near as bad as Dads) but it managed to last nine seasons precisely because of this timeless appeal. Now I'm not going to argue Dads should last anywhere near nine seasons. I hope it gets canceled within a few weeks. It certainly helps that instead of being between two comedies, it opens the night. This means that viewers don't have to tune in to Dads between two other comedies. The certain appeal this show has that you can leave it on can't work because of this.
Obviously, Dads has a lot of flaws. The first is with the premise itself. The premise of having a parent move back in with their child isn't a brand new one. It has been explored multiple times It's not very original and Dads doesn't really have anything fresh to add. The whole pilot script of Dads is very lackluster. It feels like it was drawn up by a writer on napkins and he didn't bother to find a new angle nor really make the plot points flow well together. The show jumps from one story to another without any rhythm which made the pilot feel disjointed. The actual plots are sit-commish in nature in that they don't resonate with something that could happen in reality. The jokes feel like they're recycled from another era. The stereotypical characters are all annoying and unrelateable. It should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the promos that Dads is filled with terrible writing. The comedy is also pretty offensive. One of the major jokes in the pilot is when Veronica is forced to dress up like a school girl because that's what Asians like. That it actually pays off in the business meeting rather than backfiring due to cultural misunderstandings is a sign that the creator is actually racist. There is a modern movement in comedy to be ironically racist. While that's technically still racism, it helps some writers sell potentially offensive material to the public. Family Guy and Ted were very dependent on ironic racism but they also had something Dads doesn't: an element of animation. This element of animation helped separate us sufficiently from reality that it was easy to stomach the ironically racist jokes. Without the animation, the irony is lost and the jokes reveal themselves for what they really are: offensive. Ultimately, Dads is a politically incorrect show that uses racist jokes in order to try to gain cheap laughs. That these laughs don't actually come is a sign that the show has not only failed in it's execution. I might not hate Dads while watching it so I don't want it to fail because it's bad. I want it to fail because it's legitimately racist.
The characters in Dads are all stereotypes. The two protagonists are Eli and Warner. The two work as successful video game developers with such gaming hits as “Kill Hitler”. Yeah, this is basically a writer's perception of the video game industry who has no actual familiarity with it. Eli is basically a character whose defined by being a perverted geek who has had a troubled relationship with his dad. Warner is a more uptight (still perverted) geek that has problems with facing conflict head-on. The two have different bases but their also very similar. I guess this makes sense because they're best friends but it also means they blend together at times. Their largely on the same page in the pilot which helps give the impression their basically the same character with slightly different characteristics. Their lives are turned upside down when their fathers move in with them. The pilot gives the impression that the main conflict in the series is going to be between the two guys and their dads. This might work at first but it does seem like it would eventually get tiresome. The writers will have to branch out and I'm wondering if they're really capable of putting the two friends at odds with each other because they are too similar. Their not opposites enough that the conflict becomes inherent. The final note is that their friendship always feels staged and forced. It's artificial. The only reason we know it exists beyond them being business partners is because the show basically tells us. For that matter, that also applies to the relationship between the sons and their dads.
The other characters of Dads aren't any better. The two fathers are David and Crawford. Crawford is a character who is cheap, stubborn, and rubs his son off in the wrong way. Eli complains that his dad roots for his failure but that never actually comes across in the pilot. The revelation seemed to come out of nowhere rather than anything we're actually shown between them. Crawford is a very basic character and he's very similar to David. David is basically a character who is cheap, stubborn, and likes to avoid conflict. The two are very similar to the point where I hope I didn't confuse them in this review. I wouldn't be surprised since their whole personality is based on the fact that they don't get along with their sons rather than having personalities of their own. The show has two main female characters: Veronica and Camilla. Veronica works for them and she's played by Brenda Song. Veronica is only memorable because she's willing to be objectified by her bosses. She tries to redeem herself by using that as a way to advance her career but...that's like sleeping with the boss without the actual act of sex. Camilla, the wife of Warner, makes no impression whatosever. She's the typical housewife. The final member of the cast is Eli's maid, Edna. Edna is basically this show's version of Go On's Fausta. Only while Go On was an excellent place for Tonita Castro, Dads seems more willing to treat her as a joke vehicle for language jokes rather than giving her the proper respect to give Tonita Castro an actual character.
Dads is frankly terrible. The writing is weak, it's not funny, the characters are thin, and it's very much a sit-com. It basically screams it. It's offensive in it's treatment of minorities. At the same time, it's the kind of show you could easily leave on television for hours on end. It has a timeless appeal that is difficult to really describe or even justify. So, yes, Dads is as bad as every critic out there will tell you. I just can't bring myself to actually hate this mess of a project.
A writer of Family Guy created Dads. Seth Macfarlene, the creator of Family Guy/American Dad, is an executive producer. It's no shock then that Dads feels like it might have worked better as a cartoon.
I'm shocked that none of the females in the pilot ended up being pregnant. The show is so typical in it's set-up that making one of the two guys a father seems... the logical finish.
I loved the opening title credits. I also like Seth Green a lot but this was a terrible vehicle to place him in. I also like Brenda Song and this project doesn't deserve her.