A&E enters treacherous territory with its new reality series “Modern Dads.”
Daddy bloggers are extra sensitive to stereotypes and slights, and one can only imagine what a reality show featuring dads might stoop to for entertainment purposes. Even the press package for the show, debuting at 10:30 p.m. EST Aug. 21, showcases one Dad using duct tape to save the day and another who looks alarmingly like Zach Galifianakis’s baby-holding character in “The Hangover.”
So it’s a relief that “Modern Dads” paints the four dads in question as capable and determined. These fathers care deeply about their kids, and they’re not phoning in the fatherhood experience.
It’s still such a cursory glance at modern fatherhood that we’re left without a reason to stick around for the next installment.
The Austin-based fathers, presumably pals before the cameras started rolling, represent four variations on the stay-at-home parent. You’ve got the happily married dad (Rick), the single dad (Stone), the step dad (Sean) and the new dad (Nathan).
The premiere episode finds the dads scrambling to prepare a birthday party for Rick’s one-year-old twins. They decide on a princess theme, and Sean tries to create wooden stocks to flesh out the medieval theme. Turns out his girlfriend is far handier in the woodworking department.
Consider that one macho cliche debunked, but the party story line plays out in lethargic fashion.
“Modern Dads” could have been a cultural marker, a way to codify the way today’s dads do more than their predecessors, and happily so. Instead, it falls back on hackneyed reality show tics, fatuous plot lines and weak jokes. Like every reality show, these dads narrate the story through solo interviews. It’s here where the joke writers work overtime, or the dads crack wise to middling effect.
“Times have changed. It’s not ‘Leave It to Beaver’ any more. It’s ‘Leave It to Nate Dog,'” Nathan says in the show’s opening minutes.
It does get better from there, but barely.
“Modern Dads” feels hopelessly rigged. You can almost see the show’s editors trying to bring subplots into life, but the raw material simply isn’t there. We don’t hear any real conversations between the dads, just boilerplate blather that doesn’t shed much light on what modern dads face. When Stone is pressured into a vasectomy consultation you can predict every beat that follows.
“Modern Dads'” saving grace is the deference it pays to the subject matter. In every other way it’s must-miss TV.
Note: I amended the post after learning the stocks device was actually built by one of the moms featured on the program. My original review cast skepticism on that fact.