Last week I talked about some of the problems the show needed to overcome. It's been enjoyable, but uneven at best, a show that felt more like the sum of its parts than something whole. The takeaway moments tended to call attention to themselves rather than building to a satisfying resolution. It's all symptomatic of the show's seeming reliance on Shatner to carry it. The scripts were generic, if decent, and the chemistry between Shatner and Sadowski was practically nonexistent. I'm thrilled to say "The Truth About Dads and Moms" addresses all my concerns.
First off, Sadowski's improvement is remarkable. The chemistry is suddenly there. I don't know whether to attribute that to the smarter script, a shift in tone, or the learning curve.Most likely it's combination effect, but regardless, he's gone from showing up to having screen presence.
Looking at the script, it's no wonder that Sadowski should feel energized. This time around his issues with his father dip deeper than money or technology. Henry feels like he's carrying his mother's burdens because his father wouldn't. Ed's refusal to admit this carries over into Henry's feelings about another apology Ed owes. Apparently Tim, the DMV worker from the pilot, was fired for fudging Ed's test results. It ultimately leads to a revelation that challenges Henry's assumptions about his childhood. Sadowski hits all the right notes, so maybe all he needed was something more to do than waiting around for Shatner's punchlines.
In talking about the show's tonal shift, it's worth comparing this week to last. Like last week's "Wi-Fight," this episode finds another third party caught between Ed and Henry. Last week Ed threatened a hapless, stoner technician at gunpoint while Henry egged him on. It was over-the-top in the worst possible way, a power struggle devoid of romance or humanity. The "DMV Tim" subplot turns the same kind of struggle into something much more meaningful, and I can't help but feel it's due in part to Tim Bagley.
Bagley was the only actor who held his own with Shatner in the pilot. He brought a quiet humanity to his character that freed Shatner to be more human, too. It's no wonder, then, that as the entire show last night echoed the tone of the DMV scene, Bagley's character took on a bigger role. It's seems like a sure sign that $#*! My Dad Says' creative team is paying attention to what works.
I know some people felt frustrated with the pilot and swore the show off altogether. It's worth remembering that even Seinfeld took some time to find its footing. If $#*! My Dad Says can keep the momentum going from last night, I have a feeling it will be a success. When that happens, you're going to want to catch up.
Why not sooner than later?