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Television Review

Seth MacFarlane’s ‘Dads’ is a dud

From left: Martin Mull, Giovanni Ribisi, Brenda Song, and Seth Green in “Dads.’’

Jennifer Clasen/Fox

From left: Martin Mull, Giovanni Ribisi, Brenda Song, and Seth Green in “Dads.’’

Fox recently decided to use all of the negative advance press for Seth MacFarlane’s “Dads” — and there is plenty of it — in its promotional campaign for the sitcom. The network includes quotes such as “Offensive,” “Reprehensible,” and “Morally Wrong” in an attempt to make the critics appear stuffy. The desired effect of the ad on viewers: “Well the show can’t be THAT bad.”

Don’t fall for Fox’s gambit. The show isn’t exactly “reprehensible,” but it is definitely “tired,” “forced,” “predictable,” “lazy” — choose your own critical adjective that means “bad.” From the too-liberal use of the laugh track to the grumpy-old-men concept and the dusty jokes, “Dads” is a groaner.

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The idea is that video-game designers Eli (Seth Green) and Warner (Giovanni Ribisi), whose latest is “Kill Hitler 2,” must spend their days dealing with their stereotypical old-coot dads. Eli’s father, David (Peter Riegert), is a curmudgeon and Warner’s father, Crawford (Martin Mull), is wacky and inappropriate. Yup, it’s “$#*! My Dad Says” times two. The fathers are obnoxious but — aww — they do love their sons when all is said and done.

The “reprehensible” stuff is a series of jokes in the premiere, Tuesday at 8 p.m., about Asians. First Eli and Warner force their Asian assistant Veronica (Brenda Song) to dress up and behave like a “sexy Asian schoolgirl” to reel in their Asian clients — Eli shows her how to do a teen-girl giggle. Later, we get the requisite Asian penis-size joke. And somewhere in there Veronica says to the guys, “You’re lucky your dads are American; my dad beat me with a math book till I was 16.”

Offensive, politically incorrect material can work on TV — and it often does on MacFarlane’s “Family Guy,” where the people aren’t live-action humans. On “Dads,” the Asian business lacks both the right context and enough clever writing to avoid coming off as racist and sexist. Like everything else on the show, it completely misses the mark.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com.
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