A lot has changed in the world since 1987 when “Three Men and a Baby” convulsed audiences with the antics of three narcissistic men suddenly forced to raise a child.
The number of families headed by single women continues to rise, as do the percentage of these families that live in poverty. Among two-parent households, however, fathers put in more time caring for children than they ever did before — whole lines of baby accouterment are designed specifically for men (and not just those whose parenting partner is also a man.)
And yet the executives at ABC Family, who normally err on the side of edginess, apparently believe that men plus baby equals laughter. If only it were true.
The network’s new comedy “Baby Daddy” is an unapologetic rip-off of “Three Men and a Baby,” which was itself an adaptation of the 1985 French film “Trois hommes et un couffin” (Three Men and a Cradle). Even if you could forgive its lack of creativity, it’s difficult to overlook its absurdly clunky execution. Oh, and the fact that it isn’t very funny.
Two seconds after bartender Ben (Jean-Luc Bilodeau) welcomes his hockey player brother Danny (Derek Theler) into the eerily familiar apartment (isn’t that the door from “Friends”?) he shares with fellow quirky slacker Tucker (Tahj Mowry), a baby appears. His baby, it turns out, the product of a quickly forgotten encounter with a young woman who, overcome with the responsibilities of single motherhood, has left her child in a car seat outside Ben’s door and bolted.
Oh, the hilarity of watching three men gaze at an infant as if they had never seen one while quickly calculating their past sexual encounters.
Mercifully, aid comes quickly in the shape of Riley (Chelsea Kane), Derek and Ben’s childhood friend who used to go by the name of “Fat pants.” So now, in addition to the outdated gender roles (Riley, of course, knows how to unlatch the car seat and change a diaper), we also get to make fun of fat kids. Because, you know, she’s not fat anymore — which makes her crush on Ben, and Danny’s crush on her, actually worth taking note of.
As in “Three Men and a Baby,” Grandma quickly arrives — Bonnie (Melissa Peterman) is youthful and sardonic, a woman who clearly regrets having had her own children so young. But of course when the opportunity to put little Emma up for adoption comes, no one can bear to do it because she is, after all, So Darn Cute.
Pesky little issues like health insurance, legal rights or child care are not part of the conversation, which is a tad alarming since these guys are not Three Men, but Three Boys. Fortunately, Emma is there to help them “man up.” Which is, according to Hollywood, the main purpose of children in the lives of men.
Ever since Heidi got dragged up that mountain, tots have been turning angry/immature/egotistical/damaged guys into caring and wonderful adults with naught but a smile and, perhaps, a well-timed bout of fever. That the story hasn’t advanced an inch since then is dispiriting, but this show doesn’t even try.