Council Of Dads crams a season of schmaltzy storytelling into its premiere
Photograph: Seth F. Johnson (NBC)
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When NBC closes a weepy household melodrama door, it opens a weepy household melodrama window. Tonight the Peacock Community makes use of the fourth season finale of its hit collection This Is Us to launch a brand new collection that additionally goals to “inform the story of a household.” Council Of Dads is loosely based mostly on Bruce Feiler’s 2010 memoir The Council Of Dads: My Daughters, My Sickness, And The Males Who Might Be Me, which recounts his most cancers analysis and his thought to enlist six male buddies to assist increase his younger twin daughters within the occasion of his demise. Feiler survived and the council was by no means “activated,” however since that wouldn’t present a lot fodder for an ongoing collection, creators and Grey’s Anatomy alum Joan Rater and Tony Phelan combine issues up a bit—to uneven outcomes.
Within the TV adaptation, most cancers affected person Scott Perry (That Thing You Do!’s Tom Everett Scott) has not two however 5 children in want of out of doors parental steerage. The premiere is narrated by his biracial eldest daughter Luly (Michele Weaver), who spent the primary eight years of her life rising up with Scott as her devoted single father. Scott then married obstetrician Robin (The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies) they usually added to their blended household with angsty teen son Theo (Emjay Anthony), considerate adopted daughter Charlotte (Thalia Tran), and precocious trans son J.J. (Blue Chapman). By the tip of the episode, Robin has given start to their toddler daughter Hope, Scott has died of most cancers, and the Council of Dads (we haven’t even gotten to them but!) has formally been activated to stroll Luly down the aisle at her wedding ceremony to a younger man she meets on the prime of the episode.
Evidently, it’s a lot to soak up, and the choice to have the pilot unfold over the course of a 12 months provides to the whirlwind high quality. But the weirdest factor concerning the Council Of Dads premiere is that it feels so full. It performs much less just like the intro to an ongoing collection and extra like a film in fast-forward or a whole season of TV crammed right into a single hour. The picture of the Council of Dads strolling Luly down the aisle looks as if it needs to be the climax of the primary season finale, not the tip of the premiere. However Council Of Dads is so desirous to stability its inherently unhappy premise with some emotional catharsis that it rushes to an endpoint that’s something however earned. This premiere would possibly properly make you cry, but it surely’s in the way in which you cry on the shorthand of a business.
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Photo: Joe Mast (NBC)
Since this premiere is all backstory and setup, there’s no real sense of what kind of show Council Of Dads is going to be moving forward. While it will presumably center on those titular father-figures, they’re weirdly treated as somewhat of an afterthought here. The one who gets the most screentime is Dr. Oliver Post (J. August Richards), Scott’s oncology doctor and Robin’s best friend. He’s married with a kid, so he represents the earnest family values Scott believes in so much. There’s also roguish chef Anthony Lavelle (Clive Standen), who represents Scott’s ambitious, carefree youth. And most intriguing of all is Larry Mills (Michael O’Neill), the gruffly no-nonsense grandfather figure who represents Scott’s sobriety journey and who’s definitely the sort of character likely to have a big tragic secret that will be revealed over the course of the show.
Yet even with its central council, Council Of Dads lacks a clear set of stakes. In his letters to the Dads, Scott begs them to give his family a year to see if they fall in love with them, but the men are already such enthusiastic family friends that there’s hardly any doubt as to whether they will. (This would be a very different show if Scott’s dying request went out to reluctant participants.) And the three-month time jump to Luly’s wedding confirms that the Council of Dads idea takes pretty well, so, again, I’m not exactly sure what big central question we’re invested in going forward.
Where This Is Us is specific and—at its best—challenging, Council of Dads is generic and easy. That’s even reflected in its blankly idyllic Savannah, Georgia setting. The Perry family seem to live less in the real world than on a leftover set from a Nicholas Sparks film. And for as much as Council Of Dads embraces the idea of what a 21st century family might look like, it also falls back on some overly familiar TV tropes. Contrasting a serious mom with fun-loving yet heroic dad(s) is hardly charting new territory, not only compared to This Is Us but just compared to pop culture at large.
Photo: Joe Mast (NBC)
What gives me hope for Council Of Dads moving forward is the strength of its cast. While the young performers are a mixed bag, the adult cast is uniformly solid. They all have moments where they make the show’s cheesy dialogue work far better than it has any right to, with Sarah Wayne Callies and the always wonderful Michael O’Neill emerging as particular standouts. This Is Us’ stellar casting is one of things that’s kept that show afloat through its weaker moments, and there’s hope that the talented players of Council Of Dads will be able to do the same.
Unfortunately, it’ll take a while to find out. This premiere is really more of a preview as Council Of Dads isn’t set to return until April 30. That leaves an especially big question mark as to what this show will actually look like going forward. While a good pilot should leave viewers eager to see how the story unfolds from here, Council of Dads’ big pitch seems to be to tune back in to watch these same heartwarming beats repeated in less heartwrenching circumstances. In these strange times, however, maybe something emotional but unchallenging is just what the council ordered.
- Tonight’s This Is Us finale also featured the birth of a baby whose name was dramatically revealed to be Hope. Now that’s synergy!
- In terms of what Council Of Dads will look like as a series: At the show’s TCA panel, Joan Rater explained, “We is not going to have flashbacks because the present progresses, the present may be very a lot within the current.” Tony Phelan also noted, “Episodes going ahead will play with time, however we don’t span a 12 months with each episode.” Tom Everett Scott is set to make an look in at the very least yet another episode, although it gained’t be through flashback.
- I admire that J.J.’s story isn’t a popping out story, but it surely undoubtedly looks like his cutesy precociousness goes to get previous actual quick. Identical for Theo’s teen angst.
- The good Becky Ann Baker performs Robin’s transphobic mother.
- I’m hoping the swiftness of Luly’s marriage to Evan (Steven Silver) will gasoline their upcoming storylines, as a result of, boy oh boy, does it occur jarringly rapidly. Additionally, that looks as if a really elaborate wedding ceremony to tug collectively in simply three months.
- Charlotte’s obsession with The Diary Of Anne Frank is a weirdly darkish runner, but it surely at the very least means that Council Of Dads has a little bit little bit of chew beneath the schmaltz.
- For the document, Sebastian from The Little Mermaid is a crab, not a lobster.