When we reviewed the series premiere of Seth MacFarlane’s new, live action sitcom Dads, our senior writer Marla Pachter said the following — “Racist, sexist, and astoundingly unfunny. Dads is just one big mess of a TV show.”
After the pilot, many like our esteemed writer, turned off Dads, opting for 30 minutes of a Law & Order marathon, doing the dishes, balancing their check book — anything but watch this show. This disgust and disdain reflected in the ratings, in fact FOX reduced the series order by three episodes in December of 2013 as it was the lowest ratings getter of all of FOX’s new shows at the time. Then on February 11, the show ended its first season with a series low rating against the Olympics. While the Sochi games did dominate the ratings, let’s put this in perspective — CBS ran a bunch of reruns that scored better than Dads’ finale.
So, with bad ratings and heaps of negative criticism piled on it — why is FOX even considering bringing the series back?
First, truth be told, the show isn’t as terrible as the pilot made it out to be. This reviewer caught every episode of Dads, because it was the lead-in to Brooklyn Nine-Nine and what else was there to watch for 30 minutes before B99? Having caught the entire series, one could see there was actual improvement in the show. It didn’t take a Happy Endings-esque 180 and become a markedly better show, but it went from completely insufferable to mildly entertaining.
What made the show mildly entertaining was the chemistry between the show’s leads Seth Green and Giovanni Ribsi. When the series focused on their man child characters Warner (Ribsi) and Eli (Green), the show was funny, charming and had a little emotional resonance. The two characters have depth and dimension, they have one gear outside of offensive. Remember, these two have been around a long time and have done well both critically and commercially.
In fact, the show would’ve been exponentially better if the show focused more on them than their relationship with each other and well, anyone but their dads, and you would’ve had a better show. The series could’ve easily been a buddy comedy about two man children who run a video game company. Turn the dads into guest-starring characters and by doing this you cut down on the crude and offensive humor and play up the strongest part of the series.
However, this is wishful thinking. The series put way too much focus on the dads played by Peter Riegert and Martin Mull and if given a second season will probably repeat their mistakes. Every time these characters appear onscreen the show devolves into one terrible, offensive joke after another. The characters were so one-dimensional that you could deliver their punchline before the joke was even set up. Speaking of one-dimensional, can the female characters on this show be any more underwritten?
So, should FOX cancel the series?
If you watched the season finale on Tuesday, it looks the show is ready to pull the plug itself. They actually had some thought-out story lines with actual resolutions, the “dads” had some depth to them and there were some chuckle-inducing scenes. Yes, you did have to wade through a lot of garbage to get there, but the show ended it’s first season on a relative high note…a note that also neatly tied the show in a bow.
However, is Dads really that bad? Yeah, it is. But what really separates the offensive, sophomoric and poorly developed comedy of this series say from Two and a Half Men or 2 Broke Girls or The Millers or any sitcom that gets juggernaut ratings on CBS not named The Big Bang Theory? The simple answer — ratings. If Dads could garner half the ratings these CBS sitcoms get, there’d be no discussion, it’d be back.
Also, what does FOX really have going for it? They network has had a pretty “meh” 2013-2014. They pulled the plug on X-Factor, their surefire hit from 2012 The Mindy Project might get axed, American Dad is getting shipped to TBS, their new comedies Rake and Enlisted haven’t exactly lit the world on fire and those high-profile Monday night shows Almost Human and The Following — not exactly lighting it up in the ratings and creative department respectively. Outside of Bones, the show that will not die, and critical favorites New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, this network doesn’t have much to offer.
So, why not bring Dads back? Maybe as a mid-season replacement in 2015 or they could pull a Raising Hope and bounce it around the week as a schedule filler.
Dads is not a good show by any means, but in all honesty you could do worse finding something fluffy and mildly entertaining for 30 minutes. The end of the first season has given this reviewer hope, maybe the show can get better and if given a second season it could really become something much better. But, on the flip side, if this show doesn’t come back, it won’t break my heart either.