Perhaps emboldened by “Family Guy’s” resurrection — from cancellation to cult fave and eventually second life — series creator Seth McFarlane virtually replicates that program in this new animated comedy, employing the same shotgun approach by spraying jokes against the wall, too few of which stick. Preoccupied with flatulence and alien bodily fluids (honest), McFarlane caters to a pubescent mentality better suited to Comedy Central or Cartoon Network’s latenight lineup, where “Guy” prospered, than the rigors of primetime. Series is receiving a post-Super Bowl preview in advance of a scheduled run in May, but despite occasional chuckles, “Dad” doesn’t know best.
As in “Family Guy,” McFarlane and company rely on a fast-moving formula predicated on the mindset that if a joke doesn’t work, another will be along momentarily. There’s something to that for small fry, but the low batting average and scatological emphasis conspire to narrow the program’s appeal.
Granted, it’s hard not to like a series whose pilot features a pandering headline that reads, “TV Critics Broker Mideast Peace Deal,” but I still managed, mostly because it felt as if I’d seen every beat of this before.
Stan Smith (voiced by McFarlane) is a CIA dad with a peculiar family, which includes an alien named Roger (also McFarlane) whom he picked up at Area 51 and has been harboring ever since. Roger loves junk food and does the kids favors in exchange for snacks, though he also has a grotesque habit of periodically voiding his contents — something that happens three times in the premiere alone.
That half-hour principally deals with Stan’s 13-year-old son, Steve (Scott Grimes), struggling to measure up to dad’s example. Being CIA, the trigger-happy Stan rigs a school election so Steve can be president, hoping that will make him a BMOC and win the affection of a cheerleader, guest-voiced by Carmen Electra.
Once again, plenty of the jokes sound designed for, if not written by, those with a bad case of the munchies, including a goldfish with the brain of a German skier who has the hots for Stan’s wife, Francine (Wendy Schaal). And have I mentioned, dude, that there could be a whole universe on my fingertip?
Whatever subversive charm Stan’s covert antics possess, there’s a too-familiar quality to all this, with each character possessing a dotted line connection back to “Guy.” And while being derivative — or even a little crass — isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the show’s zaniness feels too much like an end in itself.
“Dad” isn’t due to return until May 1, and perhaps those episodes will be stronger than the pilot is. As it stands, though, Fox appears to be squandering its Super showcase on a not-so-super product.