“Dad as doofus” humor is the backbone of many TV sitcoms, as has been since the very beginning. Unfortunately, the “batting average” for this easy type of humor is not very high. There are a few home runs (Homer Simpson or Michael Bluth), some clean singles (Ray Romano, Bill Cosby, Tim Allen, et al), and lots of strikeouts (George Lopez or anyone on “Yes Dear”). And I am not the first to speak out against the lazy TV stereotype of the clueless dad.Very few shows have taken a nuanced look into modern fatherhood and the work and fatherhood conundrum most of us face- “Up all Night” and “Parenthood” are two current shows that do this (I’m sure there are more, but, who has time for lots of TV?). Considering all we committed, working dads are dealing with, the time seems right for a smart, incisive comedy commenting on our issues.
“Guys with Kids” is not that show.
From the insipid title and initial promos, “Guys with Kids” (produced by Jimmy Fallon, and starring Anthony Anderson, Jesse Bradford and Jamie-Lynn Sigler) looked to be a particularly patronizing portrayal of modern fatherhood. I can envision the pitch meeting-“how funny, men… raising kids!!!, what a comical premise, we all know men can’t do that…” Let’s just say my expectations were not high.
So, I figured I would watch the pilot episode so you wouldn’t have to (all for you, dear reader, all for you), and get to write an easy, sarcastic post. Fun to write, fun to read. We’d all have a maniacal laugh and be on our way. If you care to, you can watch the pilot episode here.
I truly expected to hate “Guys with Kids”, and be offended at yet another low point in the long history of dumbing down the role of fatherhood on TV. But “Guys With Kids” wasn’t terrible and wasn’t insulting to dads. It was just sooooooooooooooo generic, sit-commy, and lame.
In the pilot episode, we meet three long-time male friends each in a different parenting situation (the first time we see them, they are all wearing infants in their Baby Bjorns while at a local bar. Groan).
One is a stay-at-home father of four who makes quips like “I’m a stay at home dad of four. You know what that means? I stay HOME ALL DAY with four kids” (laugh track, to trick people into thinking IT’S FUNNY!!!!). Another is in a seemingly happy marriage with a pretty cool stay-at-home wife. He says nothing funny, but he does drink a Capri-Sun foil juice bag in every scene (laugh track, to trick people into thinking IT’S FUNNY!!!!).
The third is a wimpy divorced dad sharing custody of his toddler with an insane shrew who is still controlling his life- she ends every argument about their baby with her trump card, “He grew inside me!!!!!” (laugh track… )
This third guy has a date, but his attempts to get a babysitter behind his harpy’s ex-wife’s back (she doesn’t allow babysitters because they “take your cough medicine and make meth in the bathtub.” laugh track… ) are repeatedly thwarted, and yada-yada-yada everyone learns a valuable lesson.
To be fair, I really liked two things about this episode:
- It is one of the first TV depictions of men who had built a network of other dads to share experiences, advice and friendship (maybe they had a Beer Fire?), and
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar!!! in an awesome unexpected cameo.
In short, I was disappointed with “Guys with Kids” because it was a missed opportunity to accurately reflect the issues working dads deal with. Also, I was disappointed because it was not cringe-worthy, patronizing or insulting enough for me to tear apart. And, for me, that’s the biggest shame of all- a horribly insulting portrayal of dads would have made for a far more interesting blog post.
What do you think about media and TV’s depictions of working dads?