The cast and executive producers of "Dads," a new Fox comedy, faced quite a few questions about the racist and questionable jokes in the show's pilot.
On Thursday, reporters at the Television Critics Association Summer 2013 press tour pressed the cast and crew about the direction and tone of the show, which stars Martin Mull, Peter Riegert, Brenda Song, Vanessa Lachey, Giovanni Ribisi and Seth Green. "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, who was not in attendance at the panel, serves as an executive producer on the show.
"In the pilot, we noticed some things we'd like to change or tweak moving forward," executive producer Alec Sulkin said of the episode sent to critics for screening, which has an Asian woman (Song) dressed up in a Sailor Moon-like anime outfit for the lead characters' potential business clients. "If we missed the mark in the pilot, we're trying to hit it better in upcoming shows."
Green noted that many of the best shows in TV history were "provocative" and "offensive." But in an earlier panel, Fox's president of entertainment Kevin Reilly made it clear that he wasn't comparing "Dads'" humor to that of the groundbreaking sitcom "All in the Family."
"If this show still has low-hanging jokes ... and the characters have not become full-blown over the next few months, the show will not work," Reilly admitted on Thursday morning. "You should take it to task and we'll talk about it in January after we've produced a number of them, and not now before we've even started ... We've seen it in shows like 'Family Guy.' We're all going to have our moment to get skewered -- we've got to earn that ... I think the show is going to get richer and better. Let's see where it goes ... I'm not suggesting for a second that we're 'All in the Family.' We'd be petrified to go into that territory today ... I think the audience will let us know and the ratings will let us know. We've put the pilot in front of a lot of groups. It was a high-testing pilot [among] a lot of ethnicities and orientations."
Ribisi said he was attracted to the producers and actors involved with "Dads," noting that he "worked at total of four days on the show." "We did the pilot and we're evolving and we are still trying to define and discover who these people are," he added.
As creator Wellesley Wild said, the kinds of fathers on the show -- Riegert and Mull's characters -- are meant to be the "racist canary in the coal mine," intended to make the younger men on the show think about if they are unconsciously becoming their fathers as they mature.
Lachey said that as a woman of color growing up in the South, she was used to a lot of everyday racism. "I've had those moments," she said. "I was the dark girl, the Asian girl, the Latina. 'What is she?'" But she defended "Dads," contending that its humor comes from "magnifying" certain kinds of opinions in order to laugh at them.
"We're getting in front of the joke," Lachey explained, citing a moment in the pilot when her character is mistaken for a maid.
Green added that the show also offers "disparaging portraits of white men in America."
In closing, another executive producer Mike Scully said, "We don't want to be racial insult comedy show."
"Dads" premieres Tuesday, September 17 at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.