Fall TV 2013: 'Dads' and 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' miss the mark for FOX's comedy snap-judgments
FOX President of Entertainment, Kevin Reilly, insisted Monday at the network's 2013 Upfront presentation that the network had hit a successful stride this year with "smart, upscale" comedies. And he was right. "New Girl" has thrived in its second season, and "The Mindy Project" appeals to that upscale (read: wealthy, with disposable income to spend on whims inspired by TV commercial) audience.
But the new comedies that FOX is touting for its Fall 2013 schedule are far from smart and upscale. Instead, they seemed to choose crude, stupid humor (networks like to call this "broad") for their fall launch, saving more nuanced and sweet (and "upscale") comedies like "Surviving Jack" and "Us & Them" for their midseason launch.
Everyone's been looking forward to "Dads" because it comes from comedic mastermind Seth Macfarlane, in his first live-action TV offering. The multicam show stars Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi as successful video game creators whose curmudgeonly fathers (Martin Mull and Peter Riegert) intrude on their lives. Despite the considerable talent both in front of and behind the camera, the vulgar jokes that play as witty on "Family Guy" fall flat here, particularly the tired Asian schoolgirl stereotype. Call it whatever you want -- hipster/ironic/faux/casual racism -- there's enough of it on television and it's not edgy or fresh. This show seems to be built on the same foundations as Macfarlane's Oscar jokes, which were more offensive than memorable.
"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" is a cop comedy specifically written for Andy Samberg by "Parks and Recreation" dream team Dan Goor and Michael Schur. Samberg stars as Jake, a crackshot detective who can crack any case -- "the only puzzle he hasn't solved is how to grow up." Yes, that line is actually in the pilot. Andre Braugher plays his new captain, whose rigid rules and by-the-book philosophy gets in the way of Jake's general tomfoolery in the department. Again, there's a ton of talent in this show, but two plus two somehow don't make four, judging by this trailer. Samberg plays the character in a big, goofy way, as if it's a four-minute SNL sketch, not a potentially long-lived series. It might work if they were working in a bakery, but the weight of crime-solving cuts some of the humor off at the knees.
The oddest of the bunch is "Enlisted," which FOX has relegated to Friday nights, likely to compete with ABC's family-friendly TGIF-esque lineup. Geoff Stults, Chris Lowell, and Parker Young play brothers working together with a rag-tag group of misfits on an army base. Think "Bad News Bears" in camo. FOX says that the show is about "loyalty, honor, and the American way," which... doesn't seem to align with the trailer, which makes it look like the show is actually about extraordinarily unintelligent people falling down. We understand that they're only playing "war games" here, but since they're supposed to be on an Army base, it's a little hard not to worry that this show may come off as an insult to those who serve the country.