From the opening credits of Dads, which features a nostalgic pop song crooning over a collage of retro photos of fathers and sons, you might be confused into thinking that this sitcom is about heartwarming familial relationships, but you would be wrong. Written by Family Guy writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild and produced by Seth MacFarlane, Dads is a whiny, mean-spirited sitcom about two grown men who spend most of their time blaming their fathers for everything wrong in their lives.
Warner (Giovanni Ribisi) and Eli (Seth Green) are old friends who run a video game company. Warner has recently allowed his father, Crawford (Martin Mull), to move in with his family and it's affecting his personal and professional life negatively. Crawford, for some reason, is under the impression that he's involved in his son's company, which is likely due to his son's inability to ever confront and say no to him. Soon, Eli's father, David (Peter Riegert), comes to town to disrupt his son's life. Eli is much more upfront about telling his father how much he hates him. However, when he learns that his father no longer has a place to live, he ends up following Warner's lead. Crawford and David are certainly not the best male role models a boy could have (David, in particular, comes off as quite a cad), but their sons have such ill things to say about them that it's curious as to why they'd allow them back into their lives so easily.
Like Family Guy, Dads proudly drives its humor into offensive territory. Much has been made of a scene in the pilot where Brenda Song's character dresses up in a slutty Sailor Moon–style schoolgirl outfit at the request of her bosses, with the goal of impressing the company's prospective Chinese investors. In addition to this textbook example of racism and misogyny, Crawford and David spew un-PC rhetoric in the vicinity of any minority character (e.g., David refers to Warner's Latina wife as his maid). But this unabashed attempt to be edgy is nothing new or interesting. It's simply a poor impression of what gritty humor was decades ago. What's truly offense about Dads is how poor the comedy is.
If you're going to swing for the fences, you better hit a few out of the park. All of the Dads jokes die at the plate. There's a scene where the two fathers try to avoid paying the check for a lunch of they've just shared. The comedic momentum is stolen by a preceding scene where Eli and Warner discuss exactly what is about to occur, sucking any spontaneity out of the bit.
It's unfortunate that Dads is so devoid of merit considering the talents of its cast. The four actors at the heart of this show are extremely charming and funny people, but they can't spin gold out of the manure they're given.
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