Let’s stipulate that ABC Family isn’t trying to reinvent the sitcom, and that nobody has cornered the cute-baby market, or the concept of having single men raising one. Even with that level of generosity, “Baby Daddy” is as stale as an old Diaper Genie, a series of poopy one-liners, powdered with little “Aw”-inducing moments of heart. While the concept ought to be a fertile one, there’s not enough duct tape in the world — the guys’ preferred method of holding diapers together — to make the show more than gratingly bearable.
Poor Ben (Jean-Luc Bilodeau) is the typical twentysomething slacker, working as a bartender and improbably sharing an apartment with his older brother Danny (Derek Theler), a pro hockey player; and friend Tucker (a grown-up Tahj Mowry), whose character name might as well be Rim Shot.
They’re just settling into sharing a bachelor pad (why a pro athlete needs to do that remains a mystery, but never mind) when there’s a knock at the door and a you-know-what left outside, the product of Ben’s fleeting tryst with the baby girl’s unseen mom.
Ben agonizes over whether to keep this “big ol’ pile of love,” as his mom (“Reba’s” Melissa Peterman) calls her, and solicits convenient help from childhood friend Riley (Chelsea Kane), who has lost a hundred pounds or so and now has a perfectly plausible crush on him, even if he still thinks of her as the kid who beat him up and was nicknamed “Fat Pants.” (There’s also an argument to be had over mocking childhood obesity in a show designed to skew this young, but frankly, “Daddy” isn’t really worth the effort.)
Series creator Dan Berendsen (“The Nine Lives of Chloe King”) tries to offset the silliness with touches of heart, mostly involving Riley’s efforts to conceal her feelings for Ben. In the second episode, for example, he begins dating a nurse, citing qualities that would seem to define Riley to anyone but his unseeing eyes.
The cast is cheerful enough — and a lot younger than Tom Selleck, Ted Danson and Steve Guttenberg — but there’s really not much to be done with a concept this stale, or characters this thinly defined.
That said, Bilodeau has apparently mastered a nifty bartender trick that involves spinning bottles (think Tom Cruise in “Cocktail”), which could come in handy. Because beyond those with a taste for pabulum, he’s going to have to pour several stiff ones to provide much inspiration to return to this big ol’ pile of comedy.