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Media Watchdog Group Asks Fox's 'Dads' to Reshoot 'Racist' Scenes

The Media Action Network for Asian Americans fires off a letter to executives, criticizing the comedy's "racial and sexual stereotypes" and blasting co-creator Alec Sulkin for an insensitive tweet he wrote in reference to the tsunami that hit Japan two years ago.

Dads
"Dads"

The hits keep on coming for Fox's forthcoming comedy Dads.

Two weeks after producers were put on the defensive at the Television Critics Association press tour over the show's controversial nature, the Media Action Network for Asian Americans fired off a letter asking that "racist" scenes be reshot before the show premieres.

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Guy Aoki, founding president of MANAA, which touts itself as "the only group solely dedicated to being a media watchdog for Asian American media issues," sent the letter addressed to Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly, COO Joe Earley, senior vp comedy Marcus Wiley and senior vp current programming James Oh.

"Our community can't continue to be the target of racially insensitive jokes," Aoki wrote. "Fox has an opportunity to fix fatal flaws in the pilot and to improve the show's chances for success when it premieres next month. We are asking you to reshoot the inappropriate scenes of the pilot. Considering the consistent feedback from our community and television critics in general -- and the creators saying they hadn't properly defined their characters nor gotten used to their actors when they shot that first episode -- this sounds like a no-brainer."

Writing about the show's "racial and sexual stereotypes," Aoki cited such moments as actress Brenda Song dressing up as a "sexy Asian schoolgirl" when the main characters were about to meet with Chinese businessmen and Martin Mull's character calling Asians "Orientals."

"[N]o one corrected him (will he later call blacks 'negroes?')," Aoki wrote. "He later warned his son that he couldn't trust the Chinese, that 'there’s a reason Shanghai's a verb.' Supposedly all was made right when the Chinese agreed to the deal after the 'creepy interpreter' sent a picture of his penis to Song, who, predictably, said that it was tiny."

Aoki also referenced a tweet written by Dads co-creator Alec Sulkin on March 11, 2011, the day a tsunami hit Japan, killing thousands of people: "If you wanna feel better about this earthquake in Japan, google 'Pearl Harbor death toll.' " 

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"Given the level of hostility we felt in the Dads pilot, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Sulkin's involved," wrote Aoki, who also noted that he hasn't received a response to the letter, which Fox brass received Monday, Aug. 13. However, reps for the network indicated that executives were in the process of responding at the time Aoki made his letter public to the media, Thursday, Aug. 15.

Meanwhile, early buzz on the show hasn't been kind. For example, Aoki's letter cited The Hollywood Reporter chief TV critic Tim Goodman's take on the series: "Not only is the show not funny, it has heavily racist overtones for Asians."

At TCA earlier this month, Reilly acknowledged as much, admitting that not all of the jokes in the pilot were in calibration but that he hoped the series would eventually be an equal-opportunity offender, like Dads co-creator Seth MacFarlane's Family Guy.

"These guys are going to try to test a lot of boundaries," he told reporters. "They are going to try to be equal-opportunity offenders. Do I think all the jokes right now are in calibration in the pilot? I don't. But I can tell you right now, I have never seen a comedy in which all the jokes are in calibration. That's the nature of comedy."

"In the pilot we noticed some things we'd like to change or tweak moving forward," writer Wellesley Wild added later during the often-contentious Dads panel, which ended at least 10 minutes early. "We want to keep it insulting and irreverent, but the most important thing is that it's funny. If we missed the mark in the pilot, we're shooting to hit it better in upcoming shows."

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Producers also emphasized that the series is a learning curve and will judge what's acceptable and what isn't based on feedback from TCA as well as from the audience.

"We're trying to learn the things that do land and the things that don't change in upcoming shows," executive producer Mike Scully, adding: "We don't want this to be the racial-insult comedy show. It's a comedy about fathers and sons and you want to strike that relatable thing."