Home is with The Perry's: NBC's Council of Dads
In the midst of the most unthinkable and unexpected pandemic this century has ever seen, came a much-needed feel-good family drama -- NBC's Council of Dads.
With the cancelation of Will & Grace, I really didn't know what my Thursday nights were going to look like, until one night, I saw "Parks and Rec" trending on Twitter and quickly realized that I forgot about their COVID-19 special on NBC and that I had probably missed the first half hour. I was right.
The special would re-air three hours later, but, luckily, for me, NBC, in the meantime, aired both the pilot and second episode of Council of Dads.
As soon as I saw Sarah Wayne Callies, star of Prison Break (2005-2017), The Walking Dead (2010-2018) and Colony (2016-2018) and J. August Richards, star of Good Burger (1997), Angel (2000-2004), and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (2013-2018), I was in. I spent the next two hours glued to my TV screen, watching The Perry's, a diverse, close-knit family, deal with the sudden death of their father and husband, Scott, played by Grace Under Fire (1995-1997), Philly (2001-2002) and I'm Sorry (2017-2019) star, Tom Everett Scott; and waited three hours to watch Parks and Rec from the start and rewatch both eps of Council of Dads, this time with my mum (who is also a huge fan of Callies and Richards).
What became of Scott's death and legacy were his best friends Larry (played by The West Wing (1999-2006) and Dallas Buyers Club (2013) actor Michael O'Neill) and Anthony (played by Vikings (2013-2018) and Taken (2017-2018) actor Clive Standen), along with his wife Robin's (played by Callies) best friend Oliver, a.k.a Oli (played by Richards), who, together, formed the council.
For Scott, it was important that Oli, Larry and Anthony be there physically, emotionally, and in whatever other capacity was needed, for Robin and their children: oldest Luly (played by Love Is_ (2018) star Michele Weaver); oldest son Theo (played by It's Complicated (2009), Chef (2014) and Rake (2014) star Emjay Anthony); middle daughter Charlotte (played by Tiny Feminists (2016) and Little (2019) star Thalia Chan); seven-year-old transgender son JJ (played by Preschool in L.A. (2018) and Undone (2019) star Blue Chapman); and newborn daughter.
I was hooked from the first episode! The wedding scene where all three dads, Oli, Larry and Anthony, walk Luly down the aisle to marry Evan (played by 13 Reasons Why (2017-2018) star Steven Silver), was powerful! With Brandi Carlile's "The Joke" playing in the background, it took me back to all the feels from Carlile's performance at the 2019 Grammy's.
What transpired throughout the rest of the season was a lot of heart, a lot of love, and a lot of growth for both the kids and the adults.
We got to see a grieving widow tackle the complexities of moving on from what was, to her, a perfect marriage; a marriage between two Black men and their roles as fathers to a Black adopted daughter Tess (played by David Makes Man (2019) actress Lindsey Blackwell), which I don't think has ever been portrayed on network television; a writer (after my own heart) on a journey to unravel her life's history and use writing to heal from it marry a young Black man who has realized that he neither wants nor needs to go to college, at least for the moment, but that he, instead, wants to rebuild old houses in his childhood neighbourhood; a teenage boy who experiences more growing pains than he and his mom -- and sometimes, even the council -- could handle, something we rarely get to see on TV, as it's usually the ups and downs of the girl; representations of different facets of the LGBTQ+ community through the younger kids Charlotte and JJ, who were also quite wise beyond their years; a conservative, out-of-touch grandma, played by Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) and Girls (2012-2017) actress Becky Ann Baker, become aware of and conform to referring to JJ by his gender identity; a soft-hearted rebel deal with the repercussions of the truth of his past; a now-sober father deal with his daughter not wanting anything to do with him; and how the idea of a council of dads, or moms, or parents or guardians creates a new meaning of "family", while revealing how the strongest of the bunch is usually the one who needs the most comforting and how those who may seem troubled or weak, can sometimes surprise us all by stepping up and being exactly what is needed at any given moment.
Based on the book, The Council of Dads: My Daughters, My Illness, and the Men Who Could Be Me, by Bruce Feiler, The Perry's and the Council always made us feel like there was a seat at their table with our names on it. Whether white, black, brown, mixed, Asian, handicapped, adopted or biological, each episode showed more and more of just how protective mama bear Robin could be over her kids, but also how much she recognized when to let go, for them and for herself. Life wasn't always cookie-cutter, but that's what the Council was for.
The formation of the council also allowed for an ease into tackling death, not just for the characters, but also for viewers. Scott, from the afterlife, was tastefully included; neither excessive nor insufficient, with the show also proving just how valuable and needed a father figure is everyone's life.
Sadly, I received the news from Richards' Twitter, during the second to last episode, that the show had been canceled, a decision I, and I'm sure the show's many other fans, had not seen coming. Because of this, I ended up watching the season finale with a flicker of joy, but also with a load of sadness, knowing there would be no season two. I love the way it ended, nicely tying everything together, but there is obviously a storyline that can extend to a second season. Fans around the world are hoping that the show can be renewed on a different network or platform, with Anna Helminska having created this petition for 5,000 signatures to make this a reality.
I've seen critics comparing Council of Dads to fellow NBC series This Is Us (2016-present), arguing that the former "really wants to be" the latter. While I can recognize an overall similarity between the two, in that they are both family dramas, I can also appreciate them for their unique differences and what they each bring to the table. I, honestly, didn't get a This Is Us vibe while watching Council because I was immediately immersed into the world of The Perry's. A dad trying to enjoy his last few days with his family and putting together a council in thinking of his kids' and wife's future. To me, Council isn't as dramatic and heavy as This Is Us can be, but that doesn't make one more liked than the other.
Nevertheless, the cast and crew, and show creators Tony Phelan and Joan Rater, especially, should all be proud of this project, particularly after a 2011 half-hour Fox comedy, didn't experience the same fate. Council of Dads gave the world a glimmer of hope and a warm and fuzzy feeling, during a time of hopelessness and numbness. Brava!
Creators: Tony Phelan, Joan Rater
Director: Jonathan Brown, James Strong, Benny Boom, Lily Mariye, Geary McLeod, Christopher Misiano, Tony Phelan, Nicole Rubio
Cast: Sarah Wayne Callies, J. August Richards, Clive Standen, Michael O'Neill, Tom Everett Scott, Michele Weaver, Steven Silver, Emjay Anthony, Thalia Chan, Blue Chapman, Kevin Daniels, Lindsey Blackwell
Aired: Tuesday March 24, 2020 at 10 p.m. (Pilot) then Thursdays 8 p.m., NBC. Season Finale - July 2, 2020.