Let’s talk about “Dads.”
This show’s panel at Fox’s TV Critics Association presentation just got cut short. Giovanni Ribisi, one of the show’s co-stars, muttered “Wow!” and then their mics went mute ten minutes before the panel was supposed to end.
To set the scene, these shows are usually greeted with softballs to create little support systems for larger questions about the network. The “Masterchef Junior” panel beforehand included the question “Why do you like Gummi Bears?”
This one was question after question about the unearned racism and sexism in the pilot.
This pilot makes the Shiite Muslim joke (it sounds like a swear word! No way!) that America’s racists groaned in unison in the three days after September 11th. It doesn’t get much better after that.
The creators, who know better, say it’s about context. Mike Scully says that it’s all about who it’s coming from, that Mr. Burns used to say stuff like that on “The Simpsons” but got away with it because he was 100 years old. Scully was the show runner in the latter-half of Springfield’s golden years, so he has two firmly grounded legs to stand on.
But here’s the problem: He’s too right. It is about context. That’s why Mr. Burns didn’t say that stuff in the pilot.
The viewership didn’t lose context, like Scully says. There is no context. The show rides a rocket ship directly into the racist jokes.
Then there were questions about sexism and racism from Alyssa Rosenberg, a tremendous reporter who wouldn’t let up until someone made a conceit. This is because she is a reporter who is good at reporting.
"I’ve gotten into the weirdest conversations with people about what they think is racist. It seems like it all comes from their own personal sensitivities," says Seth Green.
And he’s right. There needs to be a show that addresses this.
In American culture, we are all allotted one grief and only one grief. That one grief has to fit into one of several cultural buckets. There are suffering people everywhere who are not allowed the peace from ridicule from bad comedians and schlocky TV shows.
He’s absolutely right.
But this show does not address that.
This pilot makes bad jokes that happen to be racist and sexist.
It’s all about earning it.
Fox knows it’s happening. Their network notes appear to be, “We know this is happening. Make sure this doesn’t happen.” So this could be quite a journey for this television show—one that’s executive produced by really talented people, both Scully and Seth MacFarlane—because the first few episodes could get fixed before they even air.
It might be the Rudy of TV shows. That’s Fox President Kevin Reilly’s take. He whipped some early reviews of The Big Bang Theory” out of his jacket pocket when he was asked about it at his Executive Session this morning. All of those reviews called the pilot too one-note and old-fashioned for America. It’s now the most watched comedy on traditional TV in America.
"Dads" might be the racist grandpa of TV shows, too, but it might not. That’s what you’re banking on. Here’s the network note from today’s TCA, and it sounds like they’ll take it to heart: You might still love your racist grandpa, but it’s not the racism you love about your racist grandpa.
I think we all follow some corporate tumblrs, and don’t expect too much from them, but I’ve been really impressed with the Hulu tumblr lately. I don’t know who’s running it, but I hope whoever is has a boss who has taken note, and appreciates the work that they are doing. It’s still the same old corporate tumblr a lot of the time—let’s be real, they can’t all be the Denny’s tumblr—but pieces like this are worth both the time invested to write it and the time invested to read it. I’m glad someone who works at Hulu thinks that it’s worth their effort to write an informed piece for their tumblr, even if that tumblr really only exists to be promotion for their service. Props to you, Hulu tumblr editor. If you’re ever in Philadelphia, let me buy you a drink.
Corporate Tumblrs are no fun. (I like to call them set pieces. You may also call them mouth pieces. Either way they can be antiseptic.) But I had no idea about the nature of the Hulu Tumblr (which I don’t follow, but I figured they had to have one). It was nice to read about it from alexandra-ewing, whose Tumblr I do follow. (I suppose this is an example of what they mean by the viral element of social media.)