Family Guy executive producers Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, and Wellesley Wild already attempted to branch out from the animated medium with last year’s Ted, a film that seemed to exist solely for the purpose of testing its audience’s capacity for lowbrow humor and predictable plot structure. With Dads, the trio brings their lackluster handling of the live-action format to television by way of a multi-camera, shamefully laugh-tracked sitcom that’s every bit as crass and unoriginal as MacFarlane’s feature debut.
Giovanni Ribisi and Seth Green star as independent video-game developers Warner and Eli, a pair who share many things in common, including having absentminded slackers for fathers. Not only does Dads recycle the tired dynamic of sons acting like fathers and fathers acting like sons, but its jokes, fraught with racism, homophobia, and misogyny, appear to be pulled from the reject bin. Within the first few minutes of the pilot episode, Crawford, Warner’s dad (Martin Mull), nonchalantly walking around his son’s living room in nothing but a towel, obliviously belittles his son’s far-too-patient wife, Camilla (Vanessa Lachey), and exposes himself to her when the towel accidentally drops. “Well, now that you’ve seen it,” he quips, “I won’t be needing a towel from here on out.” Eli’s numbskull old man, David (Peter Riegert), is just as insensible, forgetting his son’s birthday and ruining his upcoming surprise party during a meddlesome phone call in which he asks for a place to stay.
Warner and Eli are nearly as obnoxious, forcing their office assistant, Veronica (Brenda Song), to dress up like an Asian schoolgirl to secure a business deal with some foreign investors. Dads thinks it can get away with such lazy comedic beats on the strength of its lead actors, who do what they can with the tired material they’ve been given. Yet, much like its titular bumbling patriarchs, Dads never aspires to be more than an unmannerly time-waster, devoid of inspiration and purpose. Even as it uses its detestability as fuel for a “Critics hate us, but viewers don’t!” ad campaign, it’s difficult to believe that anyone with the slightest idea of what a good comedy should be would laugh at this stuff. It’s the sitcom equivalent of “Pull my finger”: crude, outdated, and immodestly proposed.