As a new mom of an 11-month-old, married to a new dad of aforementioned 11-month-old, my life feels like a seemingly endless loop of sippy cup and poop jokes. You name it, I’ve seen it — and lived it, and probably laughed about it. But here’s the thing about parenting jokes: They’re typically only funny because you’re delirious and your child just spat pureed plum at you, or else they sink like a super absorbent swim diaper. It’s rare that a comedy about raising kids hits exactly the right notes, with nuanced humor and smart observations — but it can be done.
I wanted to love Guys with Kids, since, after all, my husband is one of them, and he’s actually a present, thoughtful dad who doesn’t say totally Neanderthal things like, “Shoot, I can’t go to the game tonight — I gotta babysit my kid.” Could a show with this premise be funny, insightful, and different? Sure. There’s only one — okay, a few — problems with this new NBC sitcom that premiered Wednesday night: It’s not clear that creator Jimmy Fallon, who doesn’t have kids himself, has ever actually seen a child, much less fathered one.
Jokes like washing a baby in a sink (I hate to break it to you, but that’s not novel) or a shrew-y ex-wife who comes over to check that the new paint isn’t lead-based (what she’d really ask is if it’s non-VOC and green, since lead paint is illegal) aren’t funny because they’re not even remotely realistic. It feels like someone said, “Hey, aren’t babies supposed to not eat lead paint? Yeah? Okay. Can we like, make a joke about that?” Not to mention the fact that the main characters are supposed to earn instant street cred just for spending time with their babies. There’s even (gasp!) a SAHD (stay-at-home-dad) who can’t stop talking about the fact that he’s a SAHD. Am I interested in the daily life of a SAHD? Absolutely! Just ... not this guy.
Another problem with the set-up? The “guys” don’t have believable relationships with their kids or their female counterparts. The babies are little more than preternaturally well-behaved props, and the women are given surprisingly conventional roles to play, which are wasted on the talented Jamie-Lynn Sigler and former Huxtable child Tempestt Bledsoe. (The irony isn’t lost on me, either. Bledsoe’s claim to fame, The Cosby Show, was so far superior to this epic fail, it’s not even funny).
Thanks to mom and dad bloggers, raising kids is one of the hottest topics out there right now (I’m looking at you, helicopter parenting). The potential for comedy — and some genuinely relatable moments — is huge, which is why it’s so disappointing that this attempt fell so flat. But it takes more than a guy wearing a baby in a sling to make a dad, and it takes more than one or two poop jokes to make a winning comedy.
Recommended? Unfortunately, no.
Will the show last the season? I sort of hope not.