Parenthood is always an adventure.
No matter how many books you read or how much advice you glean, all bets are off once that little bundle of infant joy lands in your life. None of us are ever quite prepared to be first-time mothers or fathers.
Of course, there's a difference between "not quite prepared" and "Wowser! That's what a baby looks like?!" Ben—at least initially—falls into the latter category.
Ben, a twentysomething bartender still trying to figure out what to be when he grows up, has his bachelor lifestyle turned upside down when a baby named Emma lands on his doorstep. The baby's his, Ben discovers via note. But mother Angela seems to want nothing to do with either of them. After toying with the idea of putting Emma up for adoption, Ben decides to keep her—despite the fact that he believes Formula is a car racing term and Pampers is what he does to himself after a particularly hard day at work.
Thankfully, Ben has a bit of moral (or, at least, somewhat moral) support. Danny, his muscular brother, and Tucker, his diminutive best friend, share Ben's apartment—which now means they share feeding and diaper-changing duties too. Riley, one of Ben's childhood friends and an aspiring lawyer, provides a bit of maternal influence (even though she has just as much experience mothering as Ben has fathering). And if things get really tough, Ben can always call on his own mother, Bonnie, to save the day.
In all of that, Baby Daddy is as pat and predictable as sitcoms get these days. The series adheres to the ol' "guys don't know anything about babies" trope, even though many of us 21st-century fathers changed just as many diapers and spent just as many nights holding colicky babies as their moms did. And then there's the premise of three guys raising a baby—one that's more or less pilfered from, well, Three Men and a Baby, a movie made in 1987. (And that film was itself based on an earlier French movie, 3 Hommes et un Couffin.)
The content is similarly predictable. Semi-gross gags, a staple of any I'm-not-ready-to-raise-a-kid type of movie or TV show, range all the way from smelly diapers to spit-up to, well, smelly diapers again. Ben and Tucker have pretended to be a gay couple. Ben's apartment serves as a temporary home to coarse language, and it's pretty clear that none of Emma's clueless caretakers plan to let something like a baby get in the way of any potential one-night stands. Relationships come and go with the changing seasons, while Danny and Riley weave a rather tedious unrequited love story through the proceedings. (It's like Friends' Ross and Rachel if Ross had a baby.)
But as familiar as it is and as mildly foul as it can be at times, Baby Daddy is still relatively good-hearted by modern sitcom standards, with a sweet, well-meaning core. Ben—scared as he is of fatherhood—wants to be a good daddy to his little girl. He loves her, after all. And he's not the only one. As Tucker says near the end of the program's pilot episode, "We have a baby now. We kinda have to be adults."
If only they'd learn what being an adult really means.
These guys aren't perfect parents—not by anyone's standards. But as most moms and dads will tell you, love can go a long way toward smoothing over a parent's own child-rearing deficiencies. Will it be enough? Emma sure hopes so.
TV viewers are allowed to remain skeptical.
"The Emma Dilemma"
Ben laments the fact that neighbor Kayla has organized a weekly playdate gathering for all the kids in the building … except Emma. Ben and Tucker respond by organizing a rival playdate, complete with magic tricks and a margarita machine.
A group goes out and gets very obviously drunk. Ben and Tucker return at 3 a.m., and Ben hollers insults at Kayla. When Kayla tries to get Ben to stop shouting, Bonnie encourages her to set aside her hatred of Ben for the good of Emma and her own child. "A good mom wouldn't exclude a little girl from a playgroup," she wisely counsels. (But you'd think she'd also note that a good dad shouldn't get drunk and holler insults.) We hear a nonsensical double entendre about Bonnie kissing policemen to get Ben out of trouble, and Tucker laments the use of breasts as feeding devices. Playdates are described as "birth control." Characters say "d‑‑n," "a‑‑," and "h‑‑‑" once or twice each. God's name is misused nearly 20 times.
Ben ponders putting Emma up for adoption. Is it a good decision? Bonnie thinks so. "I love you," she tells Ben, "but you can't raise this little girl. You haven't even finished raising yourself." Riley suggests that Ben's hesitancy is more a matter of self-confidence. But after she, Tucker and Danny force Ben to spend a night caring for the little girl, he decides to keep her.
On one level, it's awfully sweet. On another, it undercuts an equally important message of responsibility that sometimes loving a baby means giving him or her to someone who can better care for the child. "This baby needs a grown-up," Bonnie says. And she may be right.
When paternity is in question, Tucker and Danny insist they couldn't be the father. Tucker grudgingly admits that he's wasn't intimate with anyone at the right time. Danny says he's only been in town for an hour. "I'm fast, but I'm not that fast," he quips.
Riley was once overweight, and several jokes are made at the expense of her former size. Jokes are made about smelly diapers, and someone references a past roommate as "No Flush Tony." Danny drinks a beer, and Riley spills ice down her blouse from an alcoholic beverage. Characters misuse God's name three or four times. References are made to breasts and birth control.