The Complete First Season
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Jeff Giles
t this point, the TV-to-DVD market has grown so saturated that even though a number of quality series remain absent from store shelves, we’ve long since passed the point where media companies started gobbling up the reissue rights to second-tier shows (as of this writing, the complete “ALF” has been available to the public for nearly three years), and have gotten far enough into the networks’ vaults that we can probably expect to see “The Charmings” reach the home market by 2010.
In the context of all this, the news that the first season of “My Two Dads” is being released to DVD may seem like desperate dredging – the show only ran for three seasons, after all, and despite its unique (albeit gimmicky) setup, it never really amounted to much more than a pleasantly mind-numbing way to kill half an hour between 1988 and 1990. but these episodes have aged surprisingly well, at least within the context of the broad style of comedy that was the norm during the show’s era. (Yes, there is a laugh track, and it’s awful.)
The show’s premise – which, in a tribute to NBC’s faith in their viewers’ intelligence 20 years ago, required a voiceover during the theme song to explain – went like this: 13 years before the first episode, best friends Michael Taylor (Paul Reiser) and Joey Harris (Greg Evigan) met and fell for the same woman during a trip to Key West. Given that this was the mid ‘70s, it’s perhaps unsurprising that they both wound up sleeping with her. What is surprising, though, is her death in 1988, and the stipulation in her will that both men share custody of her daughter Nicole (Staci Keanan). No one knows who Nicole’s father is, you see; her paternity is, in the words of the wisecracking judge assigned to the case, “biologically indeterminate.”
As sitcom foundations go, it was, as previously mentioned, pretty gimmicky, but it did give “My Two Dads” a unique opportunity to make some social commentary without grasping for Very Special storylines. Although each and every episode followed the standard 30-minute-sitcom arc (setup/problem/argument/resolution), the writers were able to make some relatively profound statements about the nature of the family. For instance, Season One’s penultimate episode, “The Family in Question,” revolves around a muckraking reporter’s efforts to derail the appointment of Judge Wilbur (Florence Stanley) to a city committee by making an issue out of her placement of a young girl with two “bachelors,” and manages to include a scene featuring Dick Butkus (as restaurant owner Ed Klawicki) telling a reporter that any house filled with love should be considered a family.
It isn’t the best television you’ve ever seen, in other words, but it made an effort to be something more than funny – and it actually wasn’t half bad at being funny, either, thanks to a strong cast that was able to make the most of its often hammy lines. Reiser and Evigan are solid, as you’d expect, but the show’s real star was Keanan, who showed a preternatural gift for underplaying her lines and delivering them on time. (Stanley, of course, was tremendous; there were many reasons she had such a long and successful career in film and television, and her ability to take a moldy gag and make it smell like peaches was only one of them.)
As with a lot of season sets for less well-remembered shows, “My Two Dads: The Complete First Season” doesn’t offer a whole lot in the way of extras, including only a 16-minute reunion between the all-grown-up Keanan and Evigan (who, sadly, has lost the mullet and acid-washed jeans he favored during the series). Their banter is pleasant enough, but not terribly illuminating, and it serves mainly to raise the question of what the hell Paul Reiser is doing these days that he didn’t think he could make himself available for a chat with his former costars. Also questionable is the $35 list price for a show that most people probably don’t even remember – but if you’ve been waiting for “My Two Dads” to make its way to your DVD player, you can take comfort in the knowledge that the years have been kind to the show.