Fox has decided to keep the pilot of its upcoming comedy "Dads" intact, declining a request from the Media Action Network for Asian Americans to re-shoot scenes the group perceived as racially insensitive.
In a response letter to the group's request, Fox chief operating officer Joe Earley and entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly acknowledged the group's concerns, but stated that comedy is "subjective" and that the show is "striving to create a series with humor that works on multiple levels and 'earns' its audaciousness."
"In the case of 'Dads,' we understand your concerns, as do the producers directly, as the result of our screening event.
"This is a show that will be evocative and will poke fun at stereotypes and bigotries — sometimes through over-the-top, ridiculous situations. The series is based heavily on the executive producers’ own lives, and the relationships between the fathers and sons on 'Dads' will continue to be the main driver of show’s comedic sensibility," Earley and Reilly said in their response.
During one scene in the series, which is executive produced by "Family Guy" head Seth MacFarlane, former Disney actress Brenda Song dresses up like an anime character. Another scene includes a joke that compares a boxing match to a game of "punch the Puerto Rican."
Fox asked that the group examine the show's larger context before deeming it insensitive.
"You were clear that you don’t feel the need to give the show time to develop, based on your experience with another show on another network, but we will continue to ask you to do just that. You will see that Brenda Song’s character is a strong, intelligent, empowered young woman who basically runs the company, and who almost always gets the upper hand on the guys."
MANAA Founding President Guy Aoki implored the executives to re-shoot the pilot in a lengthy letter sent Aug. 12 to Reilly, Earley and Fox vice president, current programming James Oh.
Among other moments in the pilot, Aoki pointed out a line from Martin Mull's character in which he refers to Asians as "Orientals" and goes uncorrected, and another during which Mull's character warns his son that Chinese people are untrustworthy and that "there’s a reason 'Shanghai' is a verb."
"Our community can’t continue to be the target of racially insensitive jokes. Fox has an opportunity to fix fatal flaws in the pilot and to improve the show’s chances for success when it premieres next month," Aoki wrote. "We are asking you to re-shoot the inappropriate scenes of the pilot. Considering the consistent feedback from our community and television critics in general — and the creators saying they hadn’t properly defined their characters nor gotten used to their actors when they shot that first episode — this sounds like a no-brainer."
During the Television Critics Association press tour earlier this month, the producers and cast of "Dads" addressed the issue of racism.
"Just to be fair, these are some pretty disparaging portrayals of white men," series star Seth Green cracked. "It's helpful to have an Archie Bunker … so that Rob Reiner can say, 'Archie, it's just not OK.'"