Friday, November 15, 2013

Hooray For Man-Children: On Fox's "Dads"


The new FOX series "Dads" is the first show I've truly loathed myself as a human being for watching.

It's not just the "so bad it's good" theory of television...like perhaps "Cop Rock" or (let's face it) "Glee."  Nor is there exactly a mundane but "classic" aspect of "Dads" that lends it a tolerable-but-predictable "Everybody Loves Raymond" sort of quality.

No, this show is simply the spawn of Satan, if Satan was lazy and recycled old "Family Guy" skits.

"Dads" is about two (let's face it) middle-aged video game producers named Eli (Seth Green) and Warner (how far Giovanni Ribisi has fallen), whose deadbeat fathers (Peter Riegert—Boone from "Animal House!"—and Martin Mull) move in with them.

The series is an unashamedly proud celebration of not just Straight White Dude Privilege...but specifically, Geek Straight White Dude Privilege. See, here's where I think you might be interested.

Privileggggggge!!!
Everything that has gone south with "Geek" culture is in this show. Eli and Warner are the poster boys for infantilized man-children; I never believe for a second that they are truly capable of owning and running a video game company, and could probably be placed seamlessly into any family's basement.

In particular, Seth Green—one of the iconic figures of the now-waning artificially-created mainstream "Geek" movement—looks eerily unchanged since his younger "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" days. So when Warner chides Eli for thinking he's cool just because he's "40 and still wears T-shirts," you kinda do a double take.


Consulting Wikipedia, Green is indeed 39 (Ribisi is a youthful 38, at least until December).

Fuck—these are literally my contemporaries! This is my generation. My generation, in this...fucking show.

And perhaps that's part of the reason I seem to watch "Dads" on a regular basis.

Because, in a way...in the most painful, dysfunctional way possible...it's fucking true.

It's not just the man-child elements. It's the compete lack of irony involved in their expressions of privilege over women and non-whites.  In "Mad Men," there's a certain irony. Heck, in "Dads" executive producer Seth MacFarlane's own "Family Guy" there's irony.

But there's no irony in "Dads," no speed-bumps to blunt the impact. It's a given: Geek Straight White Dudes are the center of the fucking universe.

Sexual harassment has been funny since at least the Bob Hope days
The blatant sexual harassment of their female Asian employee? That's a given. The sort of stereotypical portrayal of non-white household help that probably hasn't been seen since the Jack Benny era? It's a given. In fact, "Dads" should receive some sort of evil parallel Earth's Emmy for Most Sexual Fetishization of the Female Other—which the producers would probably happily accept, sans irony.

But "Dads" is brilliant in that it rolls in the excuse for the Eli and Warner's bad behavior right in the series premise. Their fathers are terrible, ineffectual, racist, alcoholic, neglectful...oh, and CUTE AS BUTTONS!!!

Don't blame Eli and Warner. Blame their dads. Blame the wise-ass Peace and Love permissive generation that has raised so many of us. They have, apparently, produced a passel of entitled assholes.

This all being said—I watch "Dads" religiously. I literally stop everything I'm doing and watch it when I spot a new episode on Hulu. I watch it in spite of the at-times grueling hit-or-miss ratio of the jokes (though, to be honest, ABC's "The Neighbors" is a lot more cringe-worthy when it misses). I watch it even as I understand rationally that this show devalues everyone but the Geek Straight White Dude.

Sexual harassment has been funny since at least the Wheeler & Woosley era

"Dads" is, most likely, going to be FOX's "Two and a Half Men" (God help us)...chugging along for many irony-free seasons as their new "anchor" comedy. In fact, I had an intuition when watching the latest episode of me years in the future, watching new episodes of this goddamn fucking show (and probably still hating myself for it, unless Life has completely managed to beat my spirit down by then).

If "Big Bang Theory" is a celebration of so-called "Geek" culture...then "Dads" showcases the wreckage that comes after it.

I mean, think about it—"BBT" star Jim Parsons is currently 40, portraying Geek Icon Sheldon Cooper. He's a 40-year-old we think is cool because he wears T-shirts.

As much as I am endeared to the rollicking Fantasyland that is "Big Bang Theory"—"Dads," even in its irony-free delusional highly-offensive world (or perhaps because of it), just seems more real.