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Scott D. Pierce
Scott D. Pierce writes about television for the Salt Lake Tribune. Vice president of the Television Critics Associationn, he's covered TV in Utah since 1990.

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(Courtesy photo) Cancelled: Martin Mull, Giovanni Ribisi, Seth Green and Peter Riegert star in the new Fox comedy “Dads.”
Cynical Fox fights critics by throwing viewers under the bus

Faced with tpromoting a show that critics hate, Fox has gone on the offensive.

In a promo for "Dads," the network is attempting to take the critics' harsh words and counteract them with testimonials from fans who come out "raving" about the show.

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(It's unclear if the fans are at a screening or a taping. In either case, they clearly had been hyped up -- it's the way networks do these things.)

In a way, I'm amused. Critics -- including yours truly -- are not above being the butt of the joke. We make fun of each other all the time.

(Sorry if there are critics out there who didn't know that.)

But in this case, Fox's promo about the racist, offensive show (Tuesday, 7 p.m., Ch. 13) are themselves offensive.

In the promo, Fox flashes quote from critics calling the show "offensive," "reprehensible" and "morally wrong." Then we see young adults telling us how "great" the show is.

But "great" is not the opposite of "offensive, reprehensible and wrong."

"Dads" is about two young men (Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi) who have to deal with their fathers (Martin Mull and Peter Riegert).

The fathers are bigots. Mull's character talks about how you can't trust the Chinese. And, when he sees his son with a game controller in his hand, says, "Whatcha playing? Punch the Puerto Rican?"

And then there's the guys' assistant (Brenda Song), whose appearance instantly leads to multiple racial stereotypes ("My dad beat me with a math book till I was 16") and slurs aimed at Asians. Song is dressed up as a "sexy Asian schoolgirl" to tempt a chattering Asian businessman, who she blackmails with a picture of his "tiny China penis."

Song, not surprisingly, defended the show. (And who could blame her? It's her job.)

But she admitted to critics, "Everybody who's seen the pilot, even the commercials, was like, 'How are you not offended by wearing that little schoolgirl outfit?'"

(Sort of sad for her that everybody thinks that's offensive and racist.)

Contrast that one woman in the Fox-vs.-critics promo who says, "I don't see how you could be offended by this."

Really? Can't see how you could be offended? Really?

Personally, I feel sorry for that woman. She's unidentified in the promo, but in this age of social media she will be identified and called out. Won't hurt Fox; will hurt her.

I feel even sorrier for the (also unidentified) Asian woman in the promo who says, "It was great." And the other (unidentified) Asian woman who says, "Don't know what you're talking about," to the charge of "morally wrong."

(Really? No clue about that?)

Their placement in the ad is among the most cynical thing I've ever seen a network do in the more than 23 years I've covered television.

To be clear, I have no objection to Fox making fun of critics. I have no objection to Fox trying to promote one of their shows.

I do object to using "regular folks" who just want to be on TV who may one day realize how they've been used. One day soon.

And I don't think that critics will kill "Dads." I don't even think that the racist, sexist, reprehensible nature of the show will kill it.

What will kill "Dads" is that it's wildly unfunny to the point of being painful to watch.



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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