Impressions and tawdry jokes get in the way of building the father-daughter relationship.
Going back to the days of ‘In Living Color’, Jamie Foxx has been a national treasure of an entertainer – so when we heard the Oscar-winning actor was returning to his comedy TV roots with the Netflix sitcom ‘Dad Stop Embarrassing Me! , ”How could we not feel a sense of hope?
Sometimes hope floats. Sometimes not. In this case, the fraying begins with the opening scene of the pilot episode, with Brian from Foxx and his 15-year-old daughter Sasha (Kyla-Drew) in a therapy session.
“Daddy, stop embarrassing me!”: 2 out of 4
A series available on Netflix on Wednesday.
“I’ve read my notes about the two of you and it looks like you’ve been living together for a while,” says the therapist. “I’m here to make sure that when you two lovebirds leave here today you will sing in perfect harmony, just like Whitney and Bobby!”
Oh man. Forget the ridiculous – even for a sitcom – premise that a therapist could have “ read notes ” and didn’t know she was talking to a father and daughter, not a couple. If that’s not bad enough, in what universe is the “Whitney and Bobby” joke funny – or even a joke?
Loosely based on Foxx ‘relationship with his eldest daughter Corinne (an executive producer on the show), “Dad Stop Embarrassing Me!” has a sunny and light tone (albeit with some politically incorrect humor) and a hugely likable cast, but it comes across as a hackneyed and surprisingly uninspired effort given the level of talent on hand. Every possible joke is interrupted by a canned laugh track dusted off an ’80s sitcom, and the gimmick of having Brian from Foxx break the fourth wall and address the camera directly dates all the way back to’ The George Burns and Grace Allen Show ‘from the 1950s and has been sentenced to death on shows like’ Moonlighting ‘,’ Saved by the Bell ‘and’ House of Cards’.
When a twenties model for Brian’s cosmetics company tries to seduce him, Brian turns to us and says, “I used to knock all the spices off that roasted chicken. But I have to be responsible; she works for me, for God’s sake! Moments later he turns back to us and grunts in a Michael Corleone voice, “Just when I thought I was gone, they pull me back in!” Now what, a “Say hello to my little friend!” reference?
“Daddy, stop embarrassing me!” follows the long series of sitcoms about single-parent families. Teenager Sasha moves to Atlanta to live with her father Brian after her mother’s death, which means big changes are in the works for everyone. Watch the series of scenes where Brian wears skinny jeans, dances in public, sings karaoke, intimidates potential suitors for Sasha, etc., etc., as Sasha rolls her eyes and says variations on the line, “Daddy, embarrass me to put! “
The supporting cast includes Foxx ‘colleague “In Living Color” alum, the amazing David Alan Grier, like his pops named Pops; Skokie-born Jonathan Kite (“Two Broke Girls”) as Johnny, a cop and old friend of Brian, and Porscha Coleman as Brian’s sister, Chelsea. They all go out of their way to bring life and dimension to the usually tired, punchline-oriented dialogue, and there are moments of quick humor and even some emotionally impactful scenes, such as when the group sings ‘Take Me to the King’ as a tribute to Sasha’s mom in church – but there’s also a steady stream of silly lines of bad taste, like when Johnny the cop hears a ping on his phone and says, “Another Amber Alert? I thought I blocked those stupid things. ” Really?
Foxx also plays a number of guest characters, including the flamboyant Reverend Sweet Tee, who tells his congregation that there is a video of him at a strip club, but he was there for the chicken wings; Cadillac Calvin, a pot-bellied old-timer who is Pops’ brother and rival at the annual family barbecue contest, and Rusty, a yellow-haired bartender with a leopard coat who believes Trump won the election and specializes in making extensive drinks. One minute we’re in a relatively standard sitcom – the next it feels more like a comedic sketch show. Foxx also rolls out his impressions of Dave Chappelle, the Rock, Obama and Floyd Mayweather, which are just as entertaining as you might expect, but all of the efforts to deliver an involved storyline about a widowed father trying to connect with his teenage daughter, further tone down.
If someone enters a scene with a pumpkin pie topped with a whole lot of whipped cream, they might as well announce, “This pumpkin pie is going to be in someone’s face in the next two minutes.”
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