Every once in awhile, HuffPo comes through. We’re really starting to love on the TV critic over there:
by Maureen Ryan
There are a lot of bad new comedies arriving this fall, and the thought of writing separate reviews for “Dads,” “We Are Men,” “Super Fun Night,” “Welcome to the Family,” “Sean Saves the World,” “The Millers” and “The Goldbergs” made me not want to get out of bed in the morning.
So I’m going to provide short and sweet reasons why you should avoid them. Standard caveat: Some of these shows could improve. It’s about as likely that a unicorn will fly out of NBC’s headquarters and sprinkle every TV viewer in America with joy-creating pixie dust … but you never know, I guess these things could happen.
And here’s a bit of context for what follows. I appreciate that pilots have to do an intimidating number of things. They have to introduce characters, set up the show’s premise, outline the relationships between the people on screen and — oh yeah — entertain the audience as well. If it’s a comedy, some laughs would be nice.
That’s a lot of territory to cover. But there’s one more thing that every pilot has to do, in many subtle and obvious ways: Tell us what its priorities are.
Is it going to go for belly laughs? Is it more interested in creating a mood or a feeling? Is it content to just hang out with the characters, or is the show more about the plot and the suspense? There are hundreds of different goals a program can pursue, but the pilot has to clue us in on a few of the priorities it cares about most. The priorities established in the pilot don’t have to remain static for the life of a program — and they really shouldn’t — but initial episodes need to tell the audience what matters to the creators.
For example, the priorities that the first two episodes of Fox’s “Dads” communicated to me could be summarized in this way: “We are capable of coming up with the odd reasonably decent joke now and then, but we are quite satisfied with reaching for the easy, stupid, obvious, tired ones. Why? Because we can. Here’s the deal: We’re just not going to try that hard. Our priority is enabling our own laziness.”
It’s entirely appropriate to go after “Dads” for its racist and sexist elements, and many critics have done that extremely well. But those two elements are just symptoms of a much deeper problem with the show: It’s not just willing but determined to take the easy way out at almost every turn. It’s like a cook preparing every single dish in the deep-fryer, no matter what ingredients are on hand.
The second episode of “Dads” is less overtly racist than the first, but what becomes even more clear is that the premise — which revolves around two dads coming to live with their less-than-enthusiastic sons — results in stories and situations that are plodding and strained. A show about family members who don’t actually like each other could be funny, but this is not that show. Creatively speaking, “Dads” comes off as if it were a much-resented homework assignment for all involved.