Scott Baio has made his mark in family sitcoms as Chachi in Happy Days and Charles in Charge. Now, with upcoming Nick at Nite show See Dad Run, he’s returning to format, shooting the new show on the same Paramount Studios stage where he shot Happy Days from 1977 to 1984. But this time he’s not the Fonz’s little cousin – Baio, now 52, plays the dad in the show’s Hobbs family.
See Dad Run stars Baio as David Hobbs, an actor who played the perfect TV dad on a long-running sitcom. After the show shoots its final episode after a 10-season run, Hobbs switches parenting roles with his wife, Amy (Alanna Ubach), who returns to her work as a soap opera actress. Their three kids are played by Ryan Newman (Disney XD’s Zeke and Luther), Jackson Brundage (One Tree Hill) and Bailey Michelle Brown (Paranormal Activity 3). David must make the adjustment from TV dad whose fatherly, heroic moments are always scripted to an improving real-life dad of three kids.
The show was created by husband-wife team Tina Albanese and Patrick Labyorteaux. Working for 10 years on CBS procedural JAG got the couple thinking about writing a new sitcom that reflects how much things change during 10 years on one show (people get married, have kids, the kids grow up) and how much of an adjustment it can be to return to spending more time at home after that.
“David thinks he has all the answers, but obviously, he doesn’t, and that’s where the hijinks ensue,” Albanese said.
She and Labyourteaux draw a lot from their own life when writing the show. The Hobbs’ son is even named Joe and based on the creators’ 11-year-old son Jeau.
“In every episode, there are pieces of our life that were literally ripped from that week, something that’s actually happened to us because we think those are the things that people can relate to,” Labyorteaux said.
A storyline about Joe’s first slumber party was inspired by Jeau’s own first sleepover. In See Dad Run, though, it has the added element of how David deals with Joe’s fears of the scary movies his friends watch during the sleepover.
“Obviously David thinks that the fix to that is to show Joe behind-the-scenes stuff, show him that it’s all made-up,” Albanese said. “So he’ll bring in the makeup artist to show him how easily you can transform an everyday person that you know into a zombie, how it’s all done with special effects. That, of course, will backfire greatly and give the kid even more nightmares.”
Another storyline many families will be able to relate to is David’s first trip to a Costco-like supermarket.
“He thinks he can get in and out of there in under 20 minutes, and all the kids go into uproarious laughter because anyone that’s ever been to Coscto knows that it sucks you in,” Albanese said.
Baio, who is also an executive producer on the show, told EW that much of See Dad Run is also inspired by his own life, particularly David’s experience of grappling with returning to life at home after being constantly catered to on set.
“I’ve thought about what being famous does to you,” Baio said. “As I go through life, I’ve seen that it has skewed my thinking on some things. [In See Dad Run] we get to do that in a comedic way.”
Albanese added, “When you have a No. 1 on the call sheet, rarely does anybody ever say ‘no’ to that person. That person gets everything they want. Now you come home, and it’s time for you to take out the garbage, and don’t forget to load the dishwasher. It’s a 180 from the life you’ve lived.”
The show features plenty of adjusting-to-life-off-set antics – a devoted production assistant starts orchestrating David’s home life like it’s a TV set – but while Baio sees dealing with fame as a prevalent theme on the show, Labyourteaux notes that it’s not the focus.
“We always said if you’re making a cake [the fame theme] would be the icing on the cake, but the actual cake of the show is a fish out of water story, someone who’s new at what he’s doing,” he said.
Like Family Ties, Roseanne, Modern Family, and other family sitcoms that came before it, See Dad Run’s creators – along with showrunners Nat Bernstein and Mitchel Katlin – hope to reflect some of what the contemporary American family looks like, particularly with the experience of switching parental roles. The series follows other TV shows that feature stay-at-home dads, such as Parenthood and Growing Pains.
“Nowadays the roles are switching as far as who wears the pants in the family and who doesn’t. I think it’s something most women can relate to – juggling kids and a career and being the breadwinner,” Ubach said.
While mirroring modern families, See Dad Run’s writers also hope the show is a call-back to great family sitcoms of the past. Inspirational parental figures, families sitting down for dinner all at the same time – “We hope to bring that back to TV,” Albanese said.
The creators said that it dawned on the writers how rare great father figures are on current TV shows. When the writers discussed creating a guest role for an actor from another sitcom to play a rival to David, “in the writers room we were saying, ‘He can have this great tête-à-tête with another one of America’s No. 1 dads. Who is a great dad of a great family sitcom in the last ten years?’ And the whole room was silent,” Albanese recalled. “Where are these sitcoms that show these great, strong dads? And for us, we gotta go back 20 years to Cosby.”
Ultimately, though, See Dad Run highlights the learning curve David is on to become a great real-life dad, to comical effect.
See Dad Run premieres on Sunday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m.