'Dads' EPs Defend Fox Comedy: 'There Are Things We'd Like to Change'

"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," co-creator Wellesley Wild told reporters at TCA.
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"Dads" panel

Mere hours after Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly encouraged critics to give controversial comedy Dads a shot, the Ted producers behind the series used their platform to do the same, telling the assembled press that they'd look to find the line between offensive and acceptable.

Dads centers on two successful guys (Seth Green, Giovanni Ribisi) in their 30s who have their lives turned upside down when their nightmare dads (Peter Riegert, Martin Mull) unexpectedly move in with them. Ted's Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild are the writers on the Seth MacFarlane-produced multicamera comedy.

Early buzz on the comedy has not been kind, with critics singling out the show's offensive nature. THR's chief TV critic Tim Goodman called the pilot "terrible" and noted that "critics haven't stopped tweeting snark about it since the screeners arrived. Not only is the show not funny, it has heavily racist overtones for Asians."

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Reilly acknowledged as much early Thursday, 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 a la MacFarlane's Family Guy.

"Yes, in the pilot we noticed some things we'd like to change or tweak moving forward," Wild said during the often-contentious 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."

Producers noted that the pilot was hard to pin down the humor, with much of the cast assembled the week before production began and the voices for the characters yet to really be defined.

EP Mike Scully (The Simpsons, Parks and Recreation) said Fox's The Simpsons struggled with finding the line during its early days, noting that viewers initially took issue with Homer strangling his son, Bart. "[It's] now a beloved act of child abuse," he said with a laugh, adding dialogue from Mr. Burns and Krusty at one time also proved problematic.

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Producers stressed that the series is learning curve and will judge what's acceptable and what isn't based on reaction from feedback from TCA as well as eventually from the audience as the writers also learn what jokes are best suited for Dads and what's best for animation like Family Guy.

"We're trying to learn the things that do land and the things that don't, change in upcoming shows," Scully said of an especially provocative scene in the pilot involving an Asian-American character dressing up in an anime costume. "We didn't think that was socially provocative moment, we thought it would lead to a funny scene."

Green said his hope for Dads is to serve as a socially relevant platform to explore subject matter that may not be socially acceptable in the same way that All in the Family and The Jeffersons did during their heyday.

"It's helpful to have an Archie Bunker saying these things so Rob Reiner can say, 'Archie, that's not OK,' " he noted.

Added Scully: "We don't want this to be the racial-insult comedy show. It's a comedy about fathers and sons and you want to you want to strike that relatable thing."

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com
Twitter: @Snoodit