Former Full House patriarch Bob Saget owes a debt of gratitude to Food Network chef-cum-sitcom star Emeril Lagasse. All of the negative press being heaped on Lagasse's upcoming NBC comedy is deflecting attention from Saget's equally cringe-worthy WB effort, Raising Dad. But with the show's premiere drawing near — Dad bows Sept. 14 as part of the WB's new Friday night comedy block — Saget may want to take cover, and quick!
"It's bad," groans Mediaweek's Marc Berman. "It's definitely considered one of the worst new shows of the fall." Adds Ed Martin of industry newsletter The Myers Report: "After sitting through the pilot, I can't imagine why anyone would want to see more. It was painful to watch."
In all fairness to Dad, Berman points out that any show starring Saget should expect to be saddled with a certain stigma. "When the name Bob Saget comes up, people flinch," he says. "It's like, 'Oh God, he's coming back to television.'"
Making matters worse, Dad appears at first glance to be nothing more than a reheated version of Full House. Not only is Saget once again playing a single father raising young daughters, but his alter ego is also a widower. Even the 45-year-old former America's Funniest Home Videos host can't deny the glaring similarities. "When I read it I went, 'I can't do this,'" he recalls. "[But] then I realized that the tone is at the other end of the spectrum. To me, [Raising Dad] is much more laid back than Full House."
Maybe a bit too laid back. Considering Dad's impressive pedigree — its creator-executive producer is none other than Jonathan Katz, the brainchild behind Comedy Central's acclaimed animated satire Dr. Katz: Professional Therapist — it's even more surprising that the show is as lifeless as it is. Surely, if anyone could transform Saget from cheesy '80s family man to father figure for a new millennium, it's Katz, right? "He comes from the cable world where he had a cutting-edge kind of comedy," offers Berman. "To go to a network and do something as mundane as Raising Dad is a little surprising."
Despite the bad buzz, the WB's entertainment president, Jordan Levin, insists that unlike NBC's Emeril, Dad will not be undergoing any last-minute tinkering. "I think Jonathan Katz has a very specific point of view, and changing his point of view is not going to make a hit show," he explains. "So, you bet on his point of view. You bet on doing something that's a little different than your traditional 'big-joke' show. And if it works, great."
When asked if he found Dad to be funny, Levin hedged: "I was very invested in that family. Maybe a lot of people aren't and are cynical and look at it a certain way, but at the end of the day, I don't really believe that you can twist people's arms and force them to do something they really can't do. Sooner or later, a showrunner is going to carry you to success or not. And that showrunner is going to carry success with their original voice."
Levin cites his experience working with Joss Whedon on Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a perfect example. "Buffy's a show that has always had a cult audience," he says of the onetime WB drama. "It's never really broken out of that cult audience. We could have asked Joss to get Sarah Michelle Gellar in bathing suits and do this and that and try to break it out, but we never did. We respected his vision."Of course, five years from now, it's unlikely that the WB will be embroiled in a bidding war with rival networks over Raising Dad — if it should be lucky enough to survive that long. Predicts Berman: "People are going to think, 'Why is Bob Saget doing another sitcom as a widowed father?' I think its chances of making it are slim to none."