Council of Dads

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

TV Series Review

“How do you tell the story of a family?” twentysomething Luly Perry asks us in the opening scenes of this NBC drama. “Through everyday moments and life-changing ones,” she goes on to answer. “And the people who love you when things fall apart.”

For Luly, that loving group is made up of her dad, Scott; her stepmom, Robin; her adopted 13-year-old sis, Charlotte; and Scott and Robin’s teen son Theo and transgendered 7-year-old J.J. They’re a big blended clan. And their mutual love is obviously pretty big, too, as they romp, cheer and smile together on a summer vacation.

But Scott, it turns out, has osteosarcoma, a rare and aggressive cancer in his leg. And though he’s probably the most caring dad and buoyant individual you’d ever hope to meet—the “fun one,” his wife Robin easily declares—even he can’t make cancer cheery.

By the fall, though, a small ray of light comes peeking through the worried gloom. After chemo and surgery, a smiling Scott comes back home with his bald head covered in a jauntily placed stocking cap, and with a positive attitude displayed just as prominently. And things do indeed start to feel pretty … good.  Other family members find new happiness, too. Luly has formed a very close relationship with a great guy she met in a cancer support group. Could it be love?  And Robin is … pregnant! Thanks to all that “life-affirming sex” she and Scott had in the early stages of their battle with the disease.

Things Not Yet Given

Everything is looking up. Until it isn’t. Scott senses it first, that winter, and instinctively starts pushing hard to instill his values into the kids he loves dearly. Robin tells him that he should take it more slowly. But what if there isn’t time? Scott worries. And that’s when he first brings up the idea of creating a “Council of Dads”: a trio of men who Scott loves and trusts, who could love and guide his family if he’s not there to do so.

Scott wants the would-be council to be comprised of Anthony, Scott’s ebullient, athletic and longtime friend; Oliver, Scott’s wise and well-grounded doctor and Robin’s college bud; and Larry, a recovering alcoholic whom Scott mentored, now a solid man who knows the good and bad roads of life. Those are the men Scott wants to help his family, should he be unable to help it himself.  

Robin says that need will likely never arise.

But by the following summer, it does. And the Council of Dads steps up to become part of that group who love you when things fall apart.

Things to Unpack

There are a lot of characters in this earnest, often predictable, and many times emotional show. A lot of family members, a lot of friends, a lot of hugs and lot of topics a Council of Dads could give fatherly advice about. The premiere episode alone follows the Perry family through the course of a full year—enough storyline that, all on its own, could have been played out over a complete season of shows.

So, it’s hard to say where things will go. But it’s easy to see that NBC is reaching for another This Is Us -like series that embraces love at its core and doles out dollops of wisdom for the ever-changing American brood. And in its own way, it emphasizes the importance of father to a family. But some of its other points of emphasis may be a stumbling block.

Council of Dads has already given cursory looks at family issues ranging from dealing with illness, death and grief to the consequences of alcoholism to the struggle of figuring out where marriage fits into one’s life goals to a 7-year-old declaring his gender identity. Some of those topics will be more difficult for viewers, especially Christian viewers, to swallow than others. And some may cause them to turn away altogether. (Some minor language concerns can also mar the show.) But those are the kinds of pathways that the Perry family and their council will definitely trod. And the kinds of issues that NBC believes that today’s nuclear family ought to be thinking about. Time will tell if the family audience agrees.

Episode Reviews

March 24, 2020: “Pilot”

The Pilot episode introduces us to the Perry family with dad, Scott, still in the fold. We see family members lovingly rally around him when he learns of his cancer, and we see him love them right back with as much bouncing enthusiasm as he can muster.

Once cancer takes hold, though, it takes an emotional toll on the whole family—including the kids’ frightened and sometimes angry responses and Scott’s own fearful concern. Scott’s worry isn’t for himself so much as for the family he feels like he’s abandoning. (That feeling is exacerbated by the fact that Scott’s first wife couldn’t handle being a mom, and she abandoned Scott and daughter Luly when Luly was just an infant.)

Scott presents his idea for a helpful group of men who can aid wife Robin and guide the kids if he dies. And we meet each of the three men and see their areas of knowledge, love and strength. And when that fateful day does indeed arise, the men step forward to give their all through words and actions.

Great family joy is on display when Scott and Robin’s little daughter is born. But that’s also when Scott learns that his cancer has returned.

Luly meets a nice guy, Evan, at a cancer support group. And though she has goals of becoming a writer and heading off to New York, her dad’s illness keeps her home. In the course of things, she and Evan fall in love. And though she at first worries that love will sidetrack her goals, she concludes: “I’m not giving up on my dreams. I just realize that he’s a part of them.” They decide to marry.

While preparing for that celebration, young J.J. is dressed by his grandmother in a dress. And it’s revealed that biologically, he’s a girl. Scott’s good friend Anthony steps forward to explain the now deceased Scott’s point of view: “I don’t think he decided to be a boy, I think he just is a boy! Let J.J. be J.J.”

Beyond those elements, content here is relatively light. Scott’s doctor, Oliver, displays a picture of a bloody tumor he removed. We see a few people drink beer and wine. We learn that Scott had issues with alcohol in the past, as did the “former drunk” Larry, a member of the Council of Dads. There are a few uses of “d–n” in the dialogue.

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Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.

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