A few weeks ago, Fox’s new sitcom Dads was pre-released to critics, and everybody was so shocked and offended and disgusted that they vowed to grow out their sideburns and become Amish just so they would never have to be near a TV again. Okay, that’s slight hyperbole, but I don’t reference the Amish and their magical mid-chest beards in vain. The show’s heavy reliance on racial humor definitely provoked plenty of scathing articles condemning the show. In fact it was so off-color that the Asian-American Anti Defamation stepped in to insist a re-shoot of disparaging scenes – you know, like the one where someone refers to Asians as Orientals. Silly old people and their silly racism!
Obviously, when the internet bands together to hate something, that’s my cue to drop any productive or important task I might be engaged in so that I can join the bandwagon. So it wouldn’t have really mattered whether I had work to do, or a family emergency, or I lost my hand in a freak Lean Cuisine microwave incident (which is seriously bound to happen one of these) — I was going to watch this show to see what I can hate about it too.
Besides, I thought, it had the potential to be good. After all, the premise—two 30-something men forced to live with their crotchety fathers—seemed promising. It’s got Seth Green, my future husband and fellow short person who can’t reach things 11-year-olds can. And it’s produced by Seth MacFarlane, Family Guy Auteur, Insult Comic Extraordinaire, and Surprisingly Handsome Suit-Wearer. Surely the envelope-pushing MacFarlane could oversee the creation of jokes that make me laugh as much as Family Guy’s 5-minute dance numbers about poop. Then, of course, I remembered that MacFarlane also hosted the Academy Awards last year and made me uncomfortable to be in the same as my mom when he sang about boobs for 5 minutes. But oh well, I said. I’ll admit to enjoying vulgar jokes where no race or creed is spared from mockery — as long as it’s a good joke.
So, after all was said and done, was is it that bad? Does it have any potential? Is all this hatred stemming from the fact that lead actor Giovanni Ribisi stole our hearts as Phoebe’s brother on Friends and then ruined everything by becoming a Scientologist? I sat through the whole show and I’ll say right here and right now that it’s not nearly the affront to decency as its being made out to be. Don’t get me wrong, it’s racist. But the bigger problem here is that it’s simply not funny. There wasn’t any moment during the pilot that inspired me to start DVRing it because it had potential to get better. Sorry I’m not sorry that cliché gags about retirement-age men having overactive bladders don’t do it for me. (Although my eyes say thank you for the wonderful rolling workout they got during last night’s pilot.)
But that’s not what you’re here to talk about Internet, I know you. You’re here to talk about the racism. And that’s cool. We can talk about it. All those jokes did make me feel wrong and itchy on the inside. Not like how I felt watching Michael Scott’s gaffes on The Office or Larry David’s behavior on Curb — but like how I felt reading Paula Dean’s deposition. So if you’re the mood to get all riled up, I’ve compiled my favorite racist jokes from the pilot and ranked them in order from modestly-distasteful to “Oh Jesus, maybe I should go back and time and stop this from happening.”
1. At some point in a flurry of jabs directed at Asians, Eli (Seth Green) and Warner (Giovanni Ribisi) order Veronica (Brenda Song), the token Asian woman, to dress up like a sexy Sailor Moon schoolgirl to erhm….raise interest from potential business partners. There’s really not much to say here, because if you don’t find it disconcerting that the only Asian character was forced to leverage her status as a fetish object for professional gain, then you probably need to go to a Sarah McLachlan concert or at least stop watching Toddlers and Tiaras.
Minnillo Lachey (yep, they’re still married and existing and totally not caring about Jessica Simpson’s billions of dollars) is in the show. She plays Ribisi’s ball-busting wife who’s mistakenly addressed as a maid because GET IT, ONLY LATINAS KNOW HOW TO WIPE STUFF.
3. There’s a juvenile joke where ‘Shiite Muslim’ is mispronounced as ‘Shit.’ While I think the Muslim population has been victimized enough by American ignorance (and this joke only serves to propagate racism, not critique it), I was actually more upset that I hadn’t thought of this first myself. For someone so enamored with potty humor, I’m really off my game. Actually, scratch that, I’m really proud of myself for never having that thought cross my mind. Because I’m a grown adult who understands the general concept of humor.
4. One of the dads (a racially insensitive rube who’s nevertheless lovable, because TV!) refers to a video game as “Punch the Puerto Rican.” This joke was particularly unsettling because it was apropos of nothing and just kind of sat there polluting the air. It gave me the same pit in my stomach that my xenophobic 98-year old grandpa does when he says something racially dubious really loudly in a public place, and no one stops him because he’s on life support and frail and ugh, just let him say what he wants as he takes his final breaths.
Final verdict: I recommend skipping this show and heading to the nearest KKK chapter if you’re really craving some crude race banter. In fact, this show might just reveal itself to be a spin-off of Uncle Jack and the white supremacist brigade from Breaking Bad. Although sadly, you’ll probably find more laughs in Breaking Bad than you would in Dads—and that’s saying a lot, considering last week’s episode was so emotionally devastating, I had to call in sick and watch all the Internet’s cat videos to restore my faith in the world. Sorry, Dads, but this is one kin I can’t do.