Seth MacFarlane strikes again. The new Fox show Dads—which MacFarlane executive produces—is already a pain in the behinds of Fox execs, if tales from the network's Television Critics Association press tour are any indication.
Dads, to be honest, never had high aspiration. MacFarlane—who has had some issues with bad taste before—produces the work of two of his Family Guy writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild. We cringed even during the promo at Fox's network upfront back in May. That, we wrote, relied on "poop jokes and sexy Asian schoolgirl jokes." But at the TCAs today, Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly faced a room full of critics who hated what they had seen of the show and wanted him to answer for the show's unrepentant racism.
Dads stars Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi as two guys whose fathers (Martin Mull and Peter Riegert) move in with them. That it's offensive is hard to deny. Jace Lacob of BuzzFeed tweeted: "The worst part of #Dads is that it is casually racist AND horrifically unfunny. Which is not a good combination, really." NPR's Linda Holmes explained that "it's mostly nasty about women of color." Even the show's format works against it, with Todd VanDerWerff writing: "Dads is actively hurt by the multi-cam, live-studio-audience format. Having people braying at 'ironic' racism makes it real racism." For further evidence: "Tiny China penis," is a line that is at one point uttered by one of the characters. You really don't need anymore context.
Reilly defended the offensive content of the show by pointing to the creative team's ribald roots: "You know the lineage of those writers. They come out of Family Guy," he said, according to Variety. "They’re going to try to test a lot of boundaries and be equal-opportunity offenders. Are all the jokes calibrated? No." Reilly even admitted that, yes, Dads is offensive, AJ Marechal wrote, and needs work, but his main message was one of patience. Anticipating the—deserved—animosity, Reilly came prepared, reading pans of The Big Bang Theory from when it first aired. (That may not have been the best tactic, Holmes noted on Twitter, since critics tend to not like The Big Bang Theory despite its popularity.)
It's a natural thing to let a show, which may seem stale at first, develop over time, since comedy pilots often improve as the casts gels. But Dads has bigger hurdles to overcome, even before it airs September 17.