Tonight Fox debuts one of the more promising new comedies of the fall and the absolute worst comedy of the fall.
This yin and yang is bizarre. Do Fox executives really think viewers who tune in for the execrable "Dads" will stayed tuned to watch the smarter "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (at 8 and 8:30, respectively on WPGH)?
That seems unlikely.
Let's begin with a show that might actually be worth watching. Fox provided only the first episode, which has its share of problems, but given the creative auspices -- writers Dan Goor ("Parks and Recreation") and Mike Schur ("Parks" and "The Office," on which he also played Mose in addition to writing) -- there's reason to hope for improvement.
Andy Samberg ("Saturday Night Live") stars as goofball detective Jake Peralta, who is as immature as he is a skilled crime solver. When by-the-book Capt. Ray Holt (Andre Braugher, "Men of a Certain Age") takes over the precinct, cultures clash. At first blush, Holt seems like a stock character viewers have seen a million times, but "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" throws in a twist that's unexpected and welcome.
And that may be the show's greatest detriment: A little bit of Mr. Samberg's character goes a long way, and although Fox has had great success with smartest-guy-in-the-room rule-breakers in the past (see: "House"), Peralta's cocky childishness doesn't play as well or as broadly.
As with the first seasons of "The Office" and "Parks," the supporting characters are underdeveloped, but these writers know how to shape secondary roles over time. So that's less of a concern.
The humor quotient in the pilot proves to be a mixed bag. The laugh lines come, but they're fairly inconsistent.
Still, when they do hit -- particularly during a canvassing door-knock scene that includes a Fred Armisen ("SNL," "Portlandia") cameo -- it's easy to see "Brooklyn Nine-Nine's" potential to develop into a good, maybe even great, prime-time comedy.
Alas, there is no hope for "Dads," an obvious sitcom that plays on racist stereotypes and isn't at all funny.
The opening credits -- wistful music, a photo collage of pictures of dads and their kids -- suggest it could be a sweet exploration of the relationship between fathers and sons. "Dads" is anything but.
Video game entrepreneurs Eli (Seth Green, "Robot Chicken") and Warner (Giovanni Ribisi, "Friends") bond over their fractured relationships with their out-of-touch fathers.
Warner sees his dad, Crawford (Martin Mull, "Clue"), as a golden retriever with whom he shares a mutual avoidance of conflict; Eli sees his father, David (Peter Riegert), as an absentee parent in his childhood.
Early focus on tonight's premiere has been on the boys' racist insistence that one of their Asian employees, Veronica (Brenda Song), dress up like an Asian school girl to impress potential Chinese investors. It's a humiliating request that she agrees to but only after demanding a promotion and a week of vacation.
If that's not bad enough, "Dads" insults all viewers with its lowest common denominator humor. The sitcom, created by Seth MacFarlane ("Family Guy," "Ted"), Alec Sulkin ('Family Guy," "Ted") and Wellesley Wild ("Family Guy," "Ted"), offers a greatest hits list of time-worn, tired gags: Crawford shows up in his son's kitchen, wearing only a towel, which eventually drops to the floor in front of his daughter-in-law ("Well, now that you've seen it, I won't be needing to wear a towel from here on out"); in the show's second episode, the dads eat pot brownies and their personalities completely change.
The show's penchant for offending won't be going away. If anything, the second episode doubles down. When Crawford offers Eli a penguin meat sandwich, Eli replies, "No, I'm Jewish."
"It's free," Crawford says, playing into yet another ethnic stereotype.
Here's hoping Fox will dump dumb "Dads" posthaste.
A version of this story first appeared in Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook. First Published September 17, 2013 4:00 AM