Expectations are a funny thing.
Months ago when I read the cast listing for FOX’s new show Dads I was instantly hooked. Seth Green! Giovanni Ribisi! Peter Reigert! And, holy shitsnacks, MARTIN MULL?! That is obviously a surefire combination of awkward, sarcastic hilarity. Isn’t it? It turns out that you can take this winning cast and give it a terrible, horrible no-good script and suddenly you surprise yourself by laughing at commercials more than the actual show.
How did this happen?! Was the show filmed on desecrated Native American burial grounds? Was a piece of Hawaiian lava mistakenly moved to cause this disaster? I need answers because it’s been three episodes so far and what few chuckles I’ve managed to cough out have been so forced I think I might have given myself internal bleeding.
I really wanted this show to do well, if anything because I adore Seth Green so much. But the jokes are weak at best and it seems like the writing is holding back the cast more than anything. The premise seems funny enough: two life-long friends have to readjust when their dads move in with them. That’s sitcom gold. WHAT HAPPENED?
Apparently the original script was not only offensively unfunny but also just downright offensive. And before you roll your eyes, I’m not offended as an “Asian American” I’m offended as someone who appreciates comedy even if it’s not entirely politically correct. I constantly tease my husband for his frugality due to his Jewish upbringing. I laugh every time my mom’s Filipino accent abruptly slides through when she’s angry. I flinch in apprehension when the white girl makes my burrito at Chipotle. The difference is I know where the line is and I don’t cross it.
Dads has not only crossed that line but they did it in a way that no one seems to be enjoying. When MacFarlane & Co. made these jokes on Family Guy it was heavily frowned upon but the show features a sadistic baby, talking dog, and a woman who was pregnant for seven seasons. Family Guy is expected to be over the top and unrealistic, Dads is a live action cast with familiar faces which makes the jokes less ridiculous and more uncomfortable.
With a cast of people who are already funny I expected a show that would play to their strengths instead of crude humor that makes the comments on Youtube videos seem tame. Then again I expected Brooklyn Nine-Nine to be painful and it has been a delightful surprise.
Andy Samberg is hit or miss for me. When he’s flanked by Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer I’m wide-eyed and slack-jawed in affectionate adoration. When he’s by himself and channeling Adam Sandler I flee in fear of my life. Samberg is genuinely funny, but there is a distinctive voice that has become his staple and after 100 hours of it the humor is lost.
Lots of comedians have the same problem, the good ones address it and fix it. Jim Gaffigan’s high pitched “normal people” voice, Brian Regan’s “dumb” voice, and most notoriously Adam Sandler’s “loveable retard” voice. I was worried about Samberg’s career when I saw him becoming “the new Adam Sandler”.
Luckily Samberg and Brooklyn Nine-Nine as a whole have managed to really hit the spot. He downplays the annoying Andy that got so much camera time during SNL and instead we get an attractive, relatable character that I want to root for. But even more importantly than Samberg’s shockingly flawless performance is how well the rest of the cast is used. It’s too easy to make Terry Crews the scary boss who gets picked on, so instead he’s a cop who has excused himself from field action for fear of making his children fatherless.
In the most recent episode “The Slump”, two female detectives with very different styles have to encourage a group of at-risk teenagers to join a junior cops program but they fail miserably while the civilian secretary with a bad attitude manages to get through to them. It would be so easy to make Gina an unintelligent throw away character but she’s smart and observant and straightforward without missing the opportunity for snarky remarks.
I mentioned in my article last month that even Samberg’s friends expected this show to fail because A) FOX is notorious for cancelling sitcoms with a strong lead and a slow following and B) Samberg’s film career has so far been less than successful. Fortunately for everyone, this show is a total gift. The jokes are quick and witty without being condescending or clumsy.
Since these two shows air back-to-back during the same timeslot as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I end up watching them on Hulu the next morning and I try to watch them in order because Brooklyn Nine-Nine is like a treat after putting myself through Dads. Watching Dads by itself will make you cringe but then you won’t give it a second thought, however if you follow it with Brooklyn Nine-Nine the anger and frustration with resonate in you for days. I highly recommend it.
You know when you meet up with people you haven’t seen since high school and at first it’s nice because nostalgia gets the best of you but then after one too many beers the political opinions come out and you remember why you avoided hanging out with them for years? That’s the Dads experience. Whereas Brooklyn Nine-Nine is like a blind date set up by your friends in a bad relationship. How could you trust them to pick a suitable mate for you when they fight constantly? But the evening goes really well and the chemistry is almost palpable and they smell so good and you are praying to god to see them again.
I hate bashing it because at the end of the day I don’t want Dads to fail, I want it to get better. Though, honestly, at this point I don’t see how it could get worse.