Mimi Walker ’16/ Emertainment Monthly Staff
Dads has gotten slammed hard on the Internet after it premiered on September 17th. It was called non-humorous, non-charming, non-engaging, non-ethical…and even racist.
So what did I think when I saw it for the first time?
Well, suffice to say…in a sea of garbage being thrown at the show, I’ll be the one to throw it a bone. It’s not half-bad.
But there definitely needs to be some changes.
What is this crazy show about? Two best friends, Eli (Seth Green) and Warner (Giovanni Ribisi), work at a video game development lab. What they both have in common is a dysfunctional relationship with their wacky dads. Unfortunately for them, each of their dads moves in with them at the exact same time, leading to a clash of etiquette and language barriers, among other things.
Let’s highlight the positive aspects first:
Seth Green as Eli is a delight. He is completely believable as a first-class nerd with a sharp edge, and his comic timing is close to perfect. There’s just a natural flow to his dialogue.
Brenda Song plays Veronica, the snarky secretary of Eli and Warner. A perfect mix of silent humor through facial expressions and spicy dialogue.
Vanessa Lachey plays Warner’s wife. This woman is a doll; she can easily play a supportive, loving wife with a mature sense of humor as well. The camera loves her.
Lastly, Martin Mull as Warner’s over-involved, unfiltered father. The man is incredible. The scene where he comes out in a towel with fleshy skin spilling over put a gigantic smile on my face. He just plays the perfect weirdo, and there is a clearly defined character here. His inflexions are wonderful. His timing is wonderful. Keep this man.
And now we head to the negatives…
Warner desperately needs to be recast. Giovanni Ribisi looks and acts a little too closely to Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory, but not in a good way. Every line feels forced. He is devoid of a detectable personality. I don’t picture Vanessa Lachey falling for him. I don’t picture Seth Green and him having an off-screen bromance, so why should I buy it here? He is just very out of place. I can see this someone a little younger and suave playing this role, maybe someone like James Van der Beek or Erik von Detten. But Ribisi? He is just wrong, wrong, wrong.
Peter Riegert plays Eli’s father. He could be funnier, but he needs to tone it down. He’s just too loud and obnoxious. His inflexions are way off. If he tempered it enough, he could be gruff and grumpy. Here, he’s uncomfortably disinterested. He needs to stop pretending to be an over-the-top, super-loud Hoffman in Meet the Fockers. He should channel a little more silly, jovial, natural De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook.
Lastly, the show’s writing…is actually decent, but it could be better. It needs better direction for sure. Especially with the racist jokes.
I’ll admit, one or two of them were kind of funny because they were obviously making a dig at a stereotype that has already been established as over-the-top in the real world. An example is when Eli is teaching Veronica how to act like an Asian schoolgirl. The joke works because she herself is Asian and is being forced to do so, not by Eli and Warner, but by a neighboring company. She thinks it is ridiculous, and Eli and Warner do too; thus there is an exaggerated attempt to show what submissive little school girls are like in the minds of the other company, not in the minds of the main characters.
Dialogue like that is actually permissible because it isn’t done in a malicious nature. That is, if they don’t drench the show with it.
Unfortunately, they overdid it here. The “Orientals” line was where it became a little much. And then there was the “Kill Hitler” video game…and the “punch the Puerto Rican” game…and the “show me the gay guy!” line. Needless to say, it went from goofy to disappointing pretty quickly.
And to my frustration, most of the racist dialogue went to the most talented cast member: Martin Mull. WHY? He is naturally humorous! He doesn’t need to resort to this!
Let the humor play out through his mistranslations of everyday dialogue and boundaries. Racist mistranslations aren’t funny, especially when they’re thrown in our faces like a pie! It’s just too blatant. Were they going for an uneducated frat boy demographic here? If so, they’ve got to fix it, because there was, and still is, potential before that.
Also, the scenes cut away a little too quickly, so the punch line of a joke doesn’t absorb in the mind as well as it should. For example, when Warner has to tell his dad he loves him, he pictures his dad as a lovable Golden Retriever, making it easier and less awkward. That was quite droll, but the scene cuts away so quickly that you barely see the embrace between Warner and his dad. Thus we are left with a random memory of a man hugging a Golden Retriever, which makes no sense in context to the story. Psychology 101, people.
Overall, I’d give the show a 7.5 out of 10. There are great cast members here (for the most part), but the show is in dire need of better focus that is NOT just obviously offensive. I’ll give it some time.