published Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

Dads2Dads: TV’s ‘Jack’ is hardly a perfect father

Tom Tozer and Bill Black

We don’t usually review TV shows. but we couldn’t resist taking a look at the new Thursday night offering on Fox titled “Surviving Jack.” And the title of the program begs the question: Will we? Survive Jack, that is.

Christopher Meloni, previously Det. Elliot Stabler on “Law and Order, Special Victims Unit,” stars as Jack, oncologist and military man, who agrees to be a kind of “Mr. Mom” with two teens while his wife attends law school. This is new territory for Jack because he is now the full-time parent to his trophy, high-on-hormones daughter and his handsome, tall-but-short-on- initiative son.

It’s too early in the run to predict the longevity of “Surviving Jack.” It takes writers and actors a few shows to find their characters’ identities and settle into comfortable portrayals. For now, suffice it to say that this depiction of a modern American family in the early 1990s is stuck in caricature. Mom, dad, daughter and son are far from ideal role models, and the way they talk to and about one another is anything but kind or admirable.

We know … it’s only a TV show. The writers are grasping for laughs. However, as poet Robert Browning so aptly expressed, they should strive “to reach beyond their grasp.”

A dad who talks about rubbing his kids’ noses in feces or shouts, “Who in the hell stuck a quarter in you — will you please stop talking!” (well, he did say “please”), generates only eye rolls, not laughs. While talking to her daughter during what we presume is supposed to be a poignant moment, Mom says the worst thing about being a parent is asking your kid to be better than you were. “No,” she quickly corrects herself, “the worst thing is to watch a human shred your lady cave.” We assume the reference is to childbirth. So much for poignancy.

There are other memorable moments. Mom tells her daughter about her several conquests before she met dad. “You little slut!” the daughter responds. Dad admonishes his son for being so easily rattled after he fires a shotgun in the air just before his son hopes to catch a fly ball. He misses. “Rattled!” Dad yells. Funnier yet … Dad feigns a heart attack in front of his frantic son, then sits up with a smirk. “Rattled!”

To be fair, Dad does tell his son how proud he is that he made the varsity baseball team. He even pats his son on the knee. We don’t recall any hugs or genuine words of affection. If you watch the program, just remember that it’s make believe, not a model. Frankie, the son, says it best when he asks his Dad, “Do you enjoy making me feel uncomfortable?” As viewers and as parents, we wonder that, too.

Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of the new book Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers. Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter at Dads2Dadsllc. Contact them at tomandbill@Dads2Dadsllc.com.

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