Jimmy Fallon’s going for laughs in prime time now.
The “Late Night” host and veteran “Saturday Night Live” comedian is venturing into the early evening hours looking to make audiences laugh, but not at the star – he’s the co-creator and executive producer of the NBC’s new sitcom “Guys With Kids,” which attempts to veer away from the tradition of dimwitted TV dads and depict the adventures of three hip, young fathers (Zach Kregger, Jesse Bradford and Anthony Anderson). These new-age fathers throw themselves into daddy duty while covering each others’ backs when their learning curves have a steep drop-off. Fallon, the cast and creators offer a glimpse into the conception of a classically styled sitcom with an off-the-moment approach.
Jimmy Fallon, co-creator: When we came up with this idea, my producing partner Amy Ozols and I were just talking about all the guys that we were seeing around New York City and Time Square, like with the Baby Bjorns and the babies on the backs of their bikes, and I was saying ‘These are young, good-looking guys – they're just embracing the role of dad.’ And we both said at the same time: ‘DILFs.’ And so when we pitched the idea for ‘DILFs’ – If you know what a MILF is, this is a DILF. And immediately, thank God, NBC said ‘Yeah. We probably can't call the show 'DILF,' so we'll have to change that.’ But basically it's young parents, and it's just very positive, very fun. It's very like late‑night in a way, because we just want to have a good time. It's not really about what a drag it is to have kids. It's more like ‘I'm bringing the kid to the baseball game, and I forgot diapers. How do I make a diaper out of a hot dog wrapper and a napkin?’
Amy Ozols, co-creator: We all thought, when we started talking about this idea, that it wasn't something we felt like we had seen represented authentically on television. I think that the portrayals of fatherhood that we tended to see were ‘Having kids is a drag,’ or ‘We're bumbling idiots and we don't know what we're doing.’ And we wanted to do something very different from that. We wanted it to be a fun, positive portrayal of fatherhood. These guys continue to lead their guy lives. They just happen to have kids with them now. It's not a burden to them. It just makes them more fun. It makes them cooler.
Fallon: With all the characters we have and all the ideas that you can do with kids with birthday parties or any of that stuff, it's just endless, fun, creative stories. You can be as imaginative as you want and dream up anything, and you can do it in 22 minutes, and it's just the fun of television.
Ozols: We had 14 kids, and it was like a daycare center on our set, and we had to pre-shoot everything. I'd say 80 percent of what we used in the pilot was stuff we shot on tape night, but just in case we didn't get it, we had to pre‑shoot everything because the babies are just a massive wild card, all the time.
Zach Cregger, co-star: After a couple of hours, your co-star starts to give you a lot of back trouble, and your co-star likes to put their hand in your mouth. And grab the boom mike, and it can be taxing at times. But it also can be really wonderful because like there's nothing better for an actor than like, you know, someone who's like authentic and spontaneous, and they can't be anything but. So like that moment where I'm pulling him out of the thing and he screams, that was real. Like, he wasn't supposed to do that, but it turned out to be kind of a gem. The baby went off script, and it's pretty wonderful when it works – and it's terrible when it doesn't.
Jesse Bradford, co-star: The hand-in-the-mouth thing: yeah, I had like a tag line at the end of the scene, and the kid just put his hand in my mouth instead, and actually I stretched that moment out for a good ten seconds before anybody called cut and never said the tag line, and of course, they ended up using it. And that is absolutely part of the fun about this for me is playing with the constant variable of what the kids are going to do.
Tempestt Bledsoe, co-star: It's not cool – or wasn't cool – [for dads] to take care of your kids and get into the nitty‑gritty. You picked them up like a football and you kind of played with them and messed with their cheeks, and you handed them off to the wife. And I think this show really exposes this new trend, if you want to call it that: that fathering your children is cool. Being hands on, putting these kids to bed, being there with they wake up, cleaning up after them, feeding them – every moment of fathering your children is something to be proud of, and it's cool. I think there's going to be a lot of dads at home who feel like they haven't really been given their due for what they do do with their children and finally say ‘I'm glad somebody's finally admitting that this is hip and cool to take care of your kids.’
Anthony Anderson, co-star: Unlike Tempestt, I didn't have that stack of residual checks to rest my laurels on, so I had to take the job. [laughs] Jimmy has been a friend of mine for years now, and I got a call from his office saying, ‘We have this great project we want you to be a part of.’ I read it, and then I was like ‘I'm on board!’ One of the main reasons is it shows a positive African‑American family on network television again, loving one another and raising their children: I'm a stay-at-home dad by choice, not by any other reason. I celebrate my wife going out to work, and I sit at home, and I raise our four young men. And I get to kiss my childhood crush. She bites my bottom lip on occasion.
Fallon: I love multi‑camera sitcoms, and I always wanted to bring one back to NBC, because if you look at the biggest shows out there, it's ‘Big Bang Theory,’ it's ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ stuff like that. Those are giant shows, and NBC does that awesome. So why don't we have that on our network? And I think it's a hole that we filled with a great cast. It's fun. It's funny because we had little sneaks that were on the Internet and some people saw it and they go, ‘Why the laugh track?’ I'm like ‘There's no laugh track - that's just what happens in front of a live studio audience.’ So hopefully we're going to get, like, James Earl Jones to do the opening and say, "Live from the studio audience." We probably won't get him. But I'll do an impression, if I can.