For anyone who finds the canned laughter on TV Land a little too edgy, Nick at Nite is dipping a toe into original scripted comedy with family sitcom “See Dad Run.” Familiar enough to feel like some quickly forgotten network filler, “Dad” may blend in a little too easily on the rerun-driven cabler’s schedule. Barring a sudden burst of nostalgia for star Scott Baio, it’s doubtful this would become appointment viewing for anyone. At least the broad comedy isn’t markedly worse than some of what’s being attempted on the networks this season (see: NBC’s “Guys with Kids”).
In a theoretically meta set-up, Baio stars as David Hobbs, the star of a popular family sitcom that’s come to an end after 10 seasons. Unemployed and hoping to enjoy his semi-retired status, Hobbs instead finds himself playing Mr. Mom to his three kids — smart-alecky teen Emily (Ryan Newman), neurotic tween Joe (Jackson Brundage) and precocious cutie-pie Janie (Bailey Michelle Brown) — while wife Amy (Alanna Ubach) returns to her former job as a daytime soap actress.
There are two central jokes here: One, that David doesn’t know how to handle his kids, is an irksome family comedy cliche. The other, that David has a massively inflated ego because he played a perfect father on TV, is a little more unusual.
The pilot does a functional job establishing the premise but the second episode demonstrates little hope for the future — David forgets to put the lid on a blender before he makes a smoothie (what a mess!) and there’s an entire subplot involving Joe’s nervous stomach and frequent farting. The short burst of Vampire Weekend’s 2008 single “A-Punk” that plays between every scene change is the only thing placing “Dad” in the 21st Century.
Baio doesn’t do much to elevate the limp material, but he doesn’t sink it either. Although it’s been two decades since the actor was a sitcom regular (on ABC’s short-lived “Baby Talk”), he slips comfortably back into the rhythms of his long runs on “Happy Days” and “Charles in Charge” and creates a credible, casual chemistry with his co-stars. He looks like he’s genuinely enjoying himself, and if it’s easier to believe Baio as a husband and father than a three-time Emmy nominee, “Dad” isn’t going to suffer for it.
Ubach emerges as the cast standout with sharp delivery and slightly more shadings than the traditional scolding wife. The younger actors are strictly serviceable, while former “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper” star Mark Curry is wasted in a barely-there sidekick role.