Council of Dads Review
Last March, in a time that now seems as far back as the Pleistocene era, Council of Dads followed the season finale of This is Us. Another series in what seems to be the new genre tragi-comedy, it dealt with the Perry family, mother, father and four very distinct children. The pilot dealt with the father (Tom Everett Scott) diagnosis with cancer, his recovery, and the year in between. Worried about what would happen if the cancer came back, he made the suggestion for a ‘council of Dads’ to help raise his children. These involve three different men in various parts of his life: Evan, a fellow restaurant owner, Oliver (J. August Richards) a gay oncologist, who worked at the same hospital as his wife, and Larry (Michael O’Neill) someone Tom knew from AA. The inevitable happened at the end of the episode — the cancer returned and Tom passed away. Things moved forward from that point on, but for some reason NBC didn’t launch the series officially until last night. It doesn’t fit into their usual list of Wolf procedurals and comedies, but it might have a place in that middle ground of quirky series — Good Girls and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist — that don’t seem to show up anywhere else.
It doesn’t try to instantly make the Council a successful enterprise; indeed much of the second episode showing the council either trying to hard (particularly Larry) or trying to ignore their duties altogether (Oliver and Evan) It doesn’t help matters that Robin (Sarah Wayne Callies, a light year away from Prison Break or The Walking Dead) is still mourning her husband and is trying to do everything on her own.
Her family would be peculiar under any circumstances: Luly, the eldest, is a bi-racial twenty-something journalist who wanted to move to New York in the Pilot, got caught up with her Dad’s illness and recovery, and changed her entire life. She got married at the end of the episode, and its hard to know whether it was out of love or grief. JJ is a child who was born as a girl and identifies as a boy. Charlotte was adopted and has been looking for her birth parents. Theo is an adolescent going through angst.
The series is an uneven mix so far, but it works when it does when it leans into the awkwardness. I’m particularly in favor of it because of the casting against type of Michael O’Neill as Larry. O’Neill has been working steadily in television, but usually as someone who gets killed early in the series (24) or someone who has a twisted soul (he shot up the hospital in Grey’s Anatomy) Its rare for him to get a chance to play a fully, mostly flawed human being, and he does a good job at it, as someone who is overreaching — mainly because he was a horrible father to his children because of his drinking, and really needs this second chance.
I’ll be the first to admit Council of Dads often tries to do too much — it’s got a large cast and it doesn’t know how to handle all of them well. And I have a feeling the grimness of the subject will not be a ready draw to many audiences. But it’s different, and it tries to really analyze what makes a family in this strange new millennium we live in. We don’t see that often on a lot of shows these days, much less on broadcast television. For that much, at least, I’m willing to give it a chance.
My score: 3.5 stars.