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UPtv’s DATE MY DAD Celebrates A Father’s Persevering Sense of Right and Wrong

Photo from IMDb

UPtv’s DATE MY DAD Celebrates A Father’s Persevering Sense of Right and Wrong

By Movieguide® Contributor

Parenting is always: (a) one of the most challenging tasks for human beings; (b) potentially one of the most rewarding experiences of a life; and (c) a source for both laughter and tears for everyone involved. Season 1 of DATE MY DAD (which I believe was planned to be the only season) streaming on UP Faith & Family, depicts it all and more as it follows widower and single father Rick “Ricky” Cooper, a popular former pro baseball pitcher (Los Angeles Angels) and now owner of a local fitness center, as he raises 3 daughters, ages 15, 12, and 8.
Fortunately, Rick (Barry Watson, who himself played a sibling in the decade-long family TV series “Seventh Heaven”) does not have to raise his girls by himself. His late wife’s mother Rosa (Raquel Welch) is a loving presence that checks in on the household, cooks occasional family meals, guarantees mindfulness of the girls’ Latina heritage, and provides a female’s advice for bringing up the trio of daughters. Rick’s older brother Bill (Lochlyn Munro) and his wife Jackie (Karen Holness) also provide Rick and his girls family friendship and support.
The real focus of each episode, though, is upon the interaction with Rick’s diverse, personality-rich daughters. Fifteen year-old Mirabel (Zenia Marshall) is a selfie taking, aspiring social media make-up and style influencer. At eight, Georgina, a.k.a. Gigi (Audrey Smallman), is the youngest and the book-smartest, complete with thick-lensed eyeglasses and a very precocious vocabulary. Middle sister Elisa (Lilah Fitzgerald), at 12 years old, provides a quiet, steady hand and a servant’s heart for the practical side of the household’s life. Though, like any set of siblings, they have their tense moments, overall, they are a functioning team, each providing their unique perspectives and gifts to make it supportively through life together after suddenly losing their loving mother to an aneurysm.
The show opens three years after their mom’s death as the girls implement a plan to encourage their dad to once again “fall in love”, creating a dating service for him behind his back, all to surprise him for his 40th birthday. It is, after all, the fun premise that gives the series its title. As well intentioned as they truly are, this is just one instance of people that surround Rick that foist their unsolicited ideas upon him, thinking that they know better for his future. In true fact, as the show develops, Rick is just about the only level-headed, clear thinking person with a biblical moral worldview, and he finds himself more-often-than-not surrounded by well-meaning but worldly influences that give him poor directions sourced from worldviews of paganism and Romanticism. Our content breakdown will provide ample examples.

Most thankfully, there is only one mild profanity written into one sole episode (#9) as the family sits around a campfire. Even though it is spouted by an off-camera character, it is still an unnecessary, gratuitous insertion into an otherwise clean season of speech.

While fairly modest most of the way, cleavage and short skirts are the only constant visual skin barrage of the series, and the worst part about it is that most of the time, it is Rosa, the grandmother of all people, that sets this revealing fashion example in half the episodes.

And, again, of all people, the grandmother also sets the worst example for sexual morality in the script writing as well. For instance, we are introduced to Rosa early in Episode 1 as she sneaks in the house early in the morning, hoping to go undetected from not having come home from her “Bingo Night” the previous evening, only to be caught by all three granddaughters, who are gathered to prepare for their Dad’s birthday. She admits that there was dancing, in addition to Bingo, and the oldest makes a query about “the forbidden dance.” In Episode 2, the grandmother brags about being “on every dating site,” and in Episode 6 declares that it would be “unfair to limit myself to just one man.”

Rick’s annoying neighbor Todd provides further sordid input from next door conversations. From dropping the name of a feature film about male strippers being watched at his house, to himself reading steamy, graphic romance novels, Todd also wants “details” from Rick after any hot dates he might enjoy; “i’m going to live vicariously through you” married Todd proclaims to the single Rick. Fortunately, Rick never complies.

There is one date Rick goes on that is initially portrayed to potentially provide such details. In Episode 8, Rick arrives to a hotel room to pick up Paige (Natasha Gregson Wagner, real life spouse of Brian Watson) for a second date; Paige is a brief business visitor to L.A. and friend of a friend Rick met at work. Instead of going out to dinner, Paige announces that she has “other plans”, and opens the room door wider to reveal dinner for two, candles, and wine set up in her hotel room. We later see Rick at home that night, only guessing what might have transpired after they kissed after dinner. Rick does confess to his brother later, though, that nothing more happened, as he left “without going to 2nd base.”

No smoking. But lot’s of social drinking portrayed in a positive light as a normal, everyday occurrence. Though never drinking alone, each indulgence always involves Rick, and in 4 of the 5 episodes in which he consumes alcohol, multiple drinks are depicted: a beer with neighbor Todd and later a cocktail with brother Bill and his wife Jackie (E1); a glass of wine with grandma, then later, wine and 2 tequila shots at a bar on a date (E2); a shot of scotch with his brother, then later, a hit of cooking sherry with the grandmother (E5); and glasses of wine with Paige (E8). No drinking was ever done in the presence of the children.

In E1, when the girls find out that Grandmother Rosa did more than play the game of Bingo at her Friday night “Bingo Nights”, Gigi, the youngest, shockingly exclaims, “You lied, Abuela!” Rosa’s answer is “It happens … Get over it”, at which all four laugh.

Also in E1, Rick experiences his late wife talking to him, giving him comfort and advice. When Rick discusses this with Rosa, she explains that she believes in “spirits”, that they “come when we need help … to guide us”, and that she believed that her daughter’s spirit was appearing to Rick to help him raise the girls. After E2, the spirit appearances to Rick are replaced with flashbacks of past experiences with his wife when she was alive.

E1 has the oldest daughter, Mirabel, give her younger sisters advice about boys: “One: don’t be nice. Two: they like it when you are mean to them. Three: ignore them.”

The only prayer uttered in the series is disrespected in E2 as Rick, Rosa, and the girls are gathered at the dinner table, and the middle daughter, Elisa, starts to say grace. Instead of pausing and allowing her to pray the blessing over the meal, Grandmother and the other two girls repeatedly interrupt and interject questions for their Dad about a woman he has been seeing. When Elisa finally insists on finishing the prayer, everyone grabs hands, say “Amen!”, and go on with the dating conversation.

We catch a glimpse of 8-year old Gigi’s recreational reading in E3 as she pours through college texts covering Feminism and Women’s Rights. Looking up from her reading during household conversations, Gigi explains to her father that “normalcy, like gender, is a social construct”, and proudly announces to her grandmother that “I am a Marxist-Feminist now”, to which Rosa makes an untranslated Spanish exclamation of seeming support and solidarity.

Because Rick Cooper is the heartbeat and the conscience of each episode, this season of DATE MY DAD portrays a biblical moral worldview amidst a sea of minor to moderate questionable elements of competing worldviews. Given all that has been described above that swirls around him, Rick maintains an exemplary relationship with his daughters , as well as with his employees, and a persevering sense of right and wrong over and against sensuous and self-centered family and friends. There are truly wise listening sessions and discussions with each of his girls; particularly touching are the vignettes scattered among 3 different episodes (E1, E3, and E6) in which he chooses a special piece of jewelry from his late wife’s collection to gift to each daughter. Rick keeps the guardrails with the eldest daughter when she breaks house rules: like when she has a boy in her room with the door closed (E3), or when she attempts to go out on a weekend night with an unacceptably revealing blouse (E5). Tough-minded, yet tender-hearted, Rick turns these difficult parent-child events into opportunities for heart-to-heart talks, such as the mutual sharing of how tough life is without their late wife and mother (E5). His handling of the bullying of his middle daughter Elisa (E7) by fellow students is exemplary.  Rick’s generosity at work is illustrated by his covert covering of the tuition of a hard-working, loyal employee.

While not overly ambitious as a visual work, it must be said that the sets and camera work were always believable and unobtrusive. Home was always a welcome environment. The interior shots at Rick’s workplace seemed real enough that it’s even possible that an actual fitness center could have been used. Whether at public school, a park or campground, a restaurant or bar, the location shots were well chosen as a simple and believable backdrop to keep the viewer’s focus on the human story being told.

Host city Vancouver, British Columbia gave the location exteriors of Rick’s house the only noticed occasions for some apparent continuity issues dealing with rainfall, wet pavements and driveways, but dry, no drip cars freshly pulled into the home garage.

Additionally, a couple of conversations that include close-ups seem to reveal actors’ lines of sight reading their scripted lines on the chest of the character they are speaking with, rather than into the eyes of the dialog partner.

Along with the solid sense of the dad having a strong moral compass and the manifestations that he is the glue for this healthy family, a few other characters shine through with positive contributions to the story. Jackie is a reliable female role model for a professional career and a caring influence with her nieces. Stephanie (Candace Busby) portrays a hard-working, competent, loyal employee at the fitness center, who has a profound influence upon the three daughters’ attitudes to one another (E8).  Rosa encourages appreciation for the family’s Hispanic heritage — who knew that Raquel Welch’s father was Bolivian, giving her roots to share through this Latina character.

The final episode is entitled “Graduation”, most obviously because it centers around middle daughter Elisa’s commencement celebration for the 6th grade.  But it is at this same ceremony that Rick quietly graduates the “school of hard knocks” of his daughters’ series title process. Couldn’t happen to a better person.

Because Rick Cooper is the heartbeat and the conscience of each episode, the DATE MY DAD season portrays a biblical moral worldview amidst a sea of minor to moderate questionable elements of competing worldviews. Starting with Episode 4, a noticeable and welcome drop-off in objectionable content takes place. Whereas Episodes 1 through 3 might benefit from discretion advised even for older children, Episodes 4 through 10 contain only minor questionable elements. When including all 10 episodes for viewing, the highest Acceptability Rating would probably be a “+1 = Worthwhile: caution advised for young children.”