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Dubious <em>Council of Dads</em>

(Seth F. Johnson/NBC)

Television

Dubious Council of Dads

Being woke is more important than true fatherly care in new series

While NBC’s new series Council of Dads illustrates the importance of fathers, producer Jerry Bruckheimer doesn’t succeed in fulfilling the initial promise of a family-friendly drama.

The premise centers on Scott, a middle-aged father and restaurateur diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer. He and his wife, Robin, enjoy a comfortable waterfront home in Savannah, Ga., where she deftly balances a career as an OB-GYN with mothering their four children. 

After surgery to remove the tumor, Scott fears the cancer will return to claim his life—and rob his children of a father. He recruits three male friends—Larry, Oliver, and Anthony—to step in and serve as back-up role models in case he doesn’t survive. 

Larry is a Vietnam veteran Scott sponsors in Alcoholics Anonymous. Oliver, a gay African American, is a medical school colleague and friend of Robin who lives with (and occasionally kisses) his same-sex partner. Anthony has known Scott since their early days working (and drinking) together in the local seafood industry.

Seth F. Johnson/NBC

Seth F. Johnson/NBC

The first two episodes self-consciously check many of the boxes of a “woke” dramatic series. Oldest daughter Luly is a biracial child from Scott’s earlier relationship with a woman who wasn’t ready to be a mom. But she agreed to carry the pregnancy to term. Charlotte, the middle daughter, is of Asian descent and was adopted, while the youngest daughter, JJ, chooses to dress and act as a boy. Teenage son Theo appears angry and confused as he grieves the eventual loss of his dad.  

While the series addresses the oft-overlooked challenges of how to comfort someone who’s lost a loved one, the viewer doesn’t clearly see why Scott was so dedicated to serving his family through his chosen “council.” Did he grow up in a home without a stable father-son relationship? The question goes unanswered despite a year’s worth of action packed in the first and second episodes. 

The Bible strongly encourages commitment to looking after and caring for the fatherless (see Isaiah 1:17, for example). Early on in Council of Dads, there’s no indication the family engages with a spiritual community. As commendable as was Scott’s desire to guide his children with his “values,” he sadly missed the opportunity to encourage his children to know their most reliable source of lasting values: a merciful heavenly Father.

—Michael Malament is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute mid-career course