If someone said trying to get cheap laughs was easy, then they never saw creators Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild's (Family Guy) new sitcom, Dads. The writers are trying to hit a home run without ever stepping up to bat - and with an acting duo that possesses talents like Giovanni Ribisi and Seth Green, the show should be a hit. However, the pair can't achieve success unless they're given good material to begin with.
Eli (Green) and Warner (Ribisi) are two highly successful video game developers who also happen to be lifelong friends. From the very beginning of the episode it appears that racial stereotyping is going to be one of the main components of this series, as we're introduced to Veronica (Eli and Warner's Assistant). While the men are trying to conduct a business transaction with a Chinese corporation, they decide it would be beneficial to have Veronica dress in a skimpy school-girl outfit in order to impress their Eastern clients.
Racial stereotypes can be found in many present-day sitcoms, and they're mostly funny due to the exaggerated elements of truth found within each joke. As writers on the hit series Family Guy, Sulkin and Wild could have handled these comedic themes with more tact. Jokes about race are not inherently bad; however, in Dads none of these attempts at humor feel organic. The jokes have an almost, "This needs to be edgy, for the sake of being edgy" feel. Still, with as many faults as this show has, it's not without its charm.
Scantily-clad Veronica aside, the bit where Eli and Warner are pitching their new video game, "Kill Hitler 2," was a moment of pure hilarity. This scene also has the episodes's best line when the pair are informing the businessmen that there are "45 new ways to kill Hitler" in the upcoming sequel. For a moment, during that section of the premiere, Dads displayed its true potential. Hopefully, more of that potential will be showcased in future episodes.
By the end of the premiere, both Warner and Eli's fathers are living with their sons and causing nothing but trouble. Unlike their offspring, Crawford (Martin Mull) and David (Peter Riegert) are broke and homeless. Like Archie Bunker from All in the Family, the two men possess no verbal filter for anything they say. At one point, David refers to Warner's wife (Camilla) as the maid. Later in the episode, Crawford walks into his son's office and wants to know where their "gay guy" is. If this were 1971, when All in the Family premiered, then this brand of humor might have been revolutionary, but in 2013, it comes off as cheap and inauthentic.
The criticisms of this show come from a place of high expectations for a sitcom with a great actor like Ribisi. That same actor, who gave an outstanding performance in 2000's Boiler Room, appears to be dialing down his acting abilities in order to make the show work. Both he and Green deserve a great series, but Dads may not be the proper vehicle to speed their comedic careers along.
Dads continues next Tuesday with 'Heckuva job, Brownie' @8pm on Fox.