For months now people have been asking me what I think about NBC’s new show Guys With Kids.
The previews sure didn’t bode well. My delightful sweet-hearted grandmother-in-law saw a commercial for it, and seemed like she was ready to storm NBC studios just on principle, in support of the wonderful man (me!) taking care of her great-grandsons.
I definitely didn’t have high hopes, from what I saw. The show looked to be based mostly on the premise that a dude with a baby strapped to himself is inherently hilarious. I also had concerns about a show that is ostensibly about fatherhood but created by Jimmy Fallon — a funny guy, but also a guy who isn’t actually a dad — based entirely on a funny image he got in his mind one day of three guys at a bar watching the game who all turn around and are wearing babies. To top it off, the working title was reportedly DILFs, which sort of tells you all you need to know.
Anyhow, until I saw an episode, I was going to reserve judgement and give them the benefit of the doubt that, at the very least, the goal was to tap into the new parenting zeitgeist of involved dads, rather than to mock dads.
Well, the pilot premiered last night . . .
If you’re not familiar with the show, let me break down for you the setup: there are some guys in the big city, and they have kids.
That’s . . . about it.
The guys are made up of three friends: a harried stay-at-home dad, a married working dad, and a recently divorced dad. Rounding out the cast are the stay-at-home dad’s working mom wife, the working dad’s stay-at-home mom wife, and the divorced dad’s shrewish ex-wife.
I know us dad-bloggers have a reputation for being a little over-sensitive about portrayals of dads on TV, seeing insult where others see nothing but a little ribbing, at worst. Despite that, I’m happy to say that there was not really that much here to get worked up about.
I mean, yes, there are big problems with the show, from my perspective. The kids are little more than living props, who sit so silently by while the dads pass their witty banter about that it makes me fear that Ambien-laced snacks were involved. The laugh-track (or robotically obedient “live studio audience”) was almost off-putting it was so bad. Overall the jokes and characters are mostly unfunny and unoriginal, and the show seems pretty uninterested in tapping the rich comedy vein that 21st century fatherhood has to offer.
But the main problem for me from a “dad’s point of view” was that, a few moments of affection aside, the primary message here was that having kids is awful.
The dads aren’t bumbling doofii, so much as they just don’t seem to be enjoying being dads very much. The kids are all talked about like they are seen as terrible burdens, rather than delights. The stay-at-home dad (I apologize, but at no time did the show rise to the level of making me care to learn any character names) spends most of his time moaning about his terrible, terrible lot in life. “I’ve got FOUR KIDS!” he yells, a lot, in what might be the least funny sitcom character tagline ever. The poor child of the divorced dad is little more than a MacGuffin, whose primary purpose is as an inconvenience to his dad’s dating life and way for his ex-wife to keep controlling him.
The pilot episode is not without moments of genuine humor, charm and affection. It’s nice to see Tempestt Bledsoe again. But the reason I’m unlikely to tune in again is that it’s just . . . not very good.
I guess we’ll see how it progresses.
In the meantime, I don’t see much reason to get worked up about the show as a slight on dads, mainly because when it comes to insulting new comedies about dads there are clearly far, far worse: