My Two Dads

Though predictable as only an '80s sitcom can be, this is still fairly pleasant family fare.

My Two Dads: The Complete First Season

Distributor: Sony Pictures
Cast: Paul Reiser, Greg Evigan, Staci Keanan, Florence Stanley, Dick Butkus, Giovanni Ribisi
Length: 535
MPAA rating: N/A
Network: NBC
UK Release Date: Available as import
US Release Date: 2009-03-03

My Two Dads was something of a hit show when its first season ran in 1987, landing in the Nielsen's to 20.Originally on NBC, it aired through 1990, and after that it was popular in syndication during the '90s. The story of two self-involved, single, straight men sharing custody of a 12-year-old girl after the death of her mother is the basic foundation. It sounds tame, even silly today, but back then it professed some subject matter that was still considered risqué for family television.

First, there was the problem that the two main male characters, Michael and Joey (played by Paul Reiser and Greg Evigan) had both been involved with the girl's mother. Their competition for the affections of this woman caused a rift in their friendship, and there is still an animosity between them more than a decade later. Then there is the matter of the daughter, Nicole (Staci Keanan), whose paternity is in question because these were the days before rampant DNA testing on day time talk shows.

One of these former friends is her father, and for some strange reason the judge (the ever dryly drôle Florence Stanley) grants them joint custody. They all move into an apartment together and the judge buys their building, thereby fulfilling the roles of authoritarian/landlord and wacky neighbor all at once, and then we're off! After these points, the show pretty much followed standard sitcom guidelines.

Of course, there's an obvious element of The Odd Couple at work here, with Reiser playing the straight-laced and slightly neurotic financial manager, Michael, and Evigan playing his opposite, the free-spirited, slacker artist (he wears an earring!), Joey. But the reason so many sitcoms fall back on this formulaic premise is because it almost always works, and Michael and Joey's interplay is infinitely more interesting than Nicole's often stale storylines.

That's not a dig at Keanan's performance. She's quite good, and she holds her own among the more experienced actors and comedians. Not to mention, she's much more believable as a savvy 12-year-old girl than many of the adolescent actors Disney, Nickelodeon, or any other network has churned out in the intervening years. However, the plots she is given are plodding and predictable. A daughter's first date is standard sitcom fare, for instance, and that episode (titled, naturally, "Nicole's First Date") offers nothing new really, not even in the nervous double daddy department.

Of course, the "adult" subplots are hardly original, either. Joey and Michael fight over a woman in more than one episode (Wait… isn't that how they got into this situation in the first place?).

My Two Dads was produced by Michael Jacobs (Charles in Charge), but the story editor credit on several of the first season episodes was Chuck Lorre, who now writes and produces Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. This, along with Reiser's proto-Mad About You delivery style probably had a lot to do with the sharp comedy that is sporadically evident in many of this season's early episodes despite the repetitive set ups, but which was watered down to the point of dissolution as the show carried on and is sorely lacking in the subsequent seasons.

It may have just been the way things were done in television at the time, but the early addition of Dick Butkus as the owner the local diner and a baby-faced Giovonni Ribisi as Nicole’s boyfriend, Cory, as well as a number of guest stars (Davy Jones, Scott Baio, New York Mayor Ed Koch and Dr. Joyce Brothers, among others), doesn't really allow for the family dynamic—non-traditional as it was at the time—to develop. It's debatable whether this ultimately had any effect on the show, but perhaps if those relationships had been further explored before resorting to stock guest spots, they could have been mined for a deeper, more consistent kind of comedy.

In spite, or maybe because of, its predictability, My Two Dads: The Complete First Season comes across as endearing and enduring entertainment. Additionally, this set is very nicely presented. Four discs are packaged in two slimline cases with the 22 individual episodes synopses printed on the back covers. The first disc allows the trailers (for other sitcoms, such as Blossom) to be skipped, which is welcome because too many of these sitcom sets force you to sit through all the ads every time the disc plays. The main menus and episodes are simple and well-planned, with the obligatory "Play All" or "Episodes" options, but also featuring chapter stops within each episode.

There is only one bonus feature for the first season, an all-new and current featurette called A Look Back at My Two Dads with lively and genuinely entertaining interview comments from Staci Keanan and Greg Evigan talking about their experiences on and co-stars. Watching the interview, more than 20 years after the show's debut, it becomes apparent that it has actually held up fairly well, especially in light of what passes for DVD-worthy family comedy more recently(According to Jim, I'm looking at you.). Formulas aside, My Two Dadsis still pleasant, if slightly bland, family fare.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Editor's Note: Originally published 30 July 2014.

10. “Bedlam in Belgium”
(Flick of the Switch, 1983)

This is a massively underrated barnstormer from the boys off the much-maligned (unfairly, I think) Flick of the Switch. The album was missing Mutt Lange, but the Youngs did have his very capable engineer, Tony Platt, as co-producer in the studio at Compass Point in the Bahamas. Tony’s a real pro. I think he did a perfectly fine job on this album, which also features the slamming “Nervous Shakedown”.

But what I find most interesting about “Bedlam in Belgium” is that it’s based on a fracas that broke out on stage in Kontich, Belgium, in 1977, involving Bon Scott, the rest of the band, and the local authorities. AC/DC had violated a noise curfew and things got hairy.

Yet Brian Johnson, more than half a decade later, wrote the lyrics with such insight; almost as if he was the one getting walloped by the Belgian police: He gave me a crack in the back with his gun / Hurt me so bad I could feel the blood run. Cracking lyrics, Bon-esque. Unfortunately for Brian, he was removed from lyric-writing duties from The Razors Edge (1990) onwards. All songs up to and including 2008’s Black Ice are Young/Young compositions.

Who’ll be writing the songs on the new album AC/DC has been working on in Vancouver? AC/DC fans can’t wait to hear them. Nor can I.

9. “Spellbound”
(For Those About to Rock We Salute You, 1981)

"Spellbound" really stands as a lasting monument to the genius of Mutt Lange, a man whose finely tuned ear and attention to detail filed the rough edges of Vanda & Young–era AC/DC and turned this commercially underperforming band for Atlantic Records into one of the biggest in the world. On “Spellbound” AC/DC sounds truly majestic. Lange just amplifies their natural power an extra notch. It’s crisp sounding, laden with dynamics and just awesome when Angus launches into his solo.

“Spellbound” is the closer on For Those About to Rock We Salute You, the last album Lange did with AC/DC, so chronologically it’s a significant song; it marks the end of an important era. For Those About to Rock was an unhappy experience for a lot of people. There was a lot of blood being spilled behind the scenes. It went to number one in the US but commercially was a massive disappointment after the performance of Back in Black. Much of the blame lies at the feet of Atlantic Records, then under Doug Morris, who made the decision to exhume an album they’d shelved in 1976, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, and release it in-between Back in Black and For Those About to Rock.

In the book Phil Carson, who signed AC/DC to Atlantic, calls it “one of the most crass decisions ever made by a record-company executive” and believes it undermined sales of For Those About to Rock.

8. “Down Payment Blues”
(Powerage, 1978)

This is one of the best songs off Powerage -- perhaps the high point of Bon Scott as a lyricist -- but also significant for its connection to “Back in Black”. There are key lines in it: Sitting in my Cadillac / Listening to my radio / Suzy baby get on in / Tell me where she wanna go / I'm living in a nightmare / She's looking like a wet dream / I got myself a Cadillac / But I can't afford the gasoline.

Bon loved writing about Cadillacs. He mentions them in “Rocker” off the Australian version of TNT and the international release of Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap: Got slicked black hair / Skin tight jeans / Cadillac car and a teenage dream.

Then you get to “Back in Black”. Bon’s dead but the lyrics have this spooky connection to “Down Payment Blues”: Back in the back / Of a Cadillac / Number one with a bullet, I’m a power pack.

Why was Brian singing about riding around in Cadillacs? He’d just joined AC/DC, wasn’t earning a lot and was on his best behavior. Bon had a reason to be singing about money. He was writing all the songs and just had a breakthrough album with Highway to Hell. Which begs the question: Could Bon also have written or part written the lyrics to “Back in Black”?

Bon’s late mother Isa said in 2006: “The last time we saw him was Christmas ’79, two months before he died. [Bon] told me he was working on the Back in Black album and that that was going to be it; that he was going to be a millionaire.”

7. “You Shook Me All Night Long”
(Back in Black, 1980)

Everyone knows and loves this song; it’s played everywhere. Shania Twain and Celine Dion have covered it. It’s one of AC/DC’s standbys. But who wrote it?

Former Mötley Crüe manager Doug Thaler is convinced Bon Scott, who’d passed away before the album was recorded, being replaced by Brian Johnson, wrote the lyrics. In fact he told me, “You can bet your life that Bon Scott wrote the lyrics to ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’.” That’s a pretty strong statement from a guy who used to be AC/DC’s American booking agent and knew the band intimately. I look into this claim in some depth in the book and draw my own conclusions.

I’m convinced Bon wrote it. In my opinion only Bon would have written a line like “She told me to come but I was already there.” Brian never matched the verve or wit of Bon in his lyrics and it’s why I think so much of AC/DC’s mid-'80s output suffers even when the guitar work of the Youngs was as good as it ever was.

But what’s also really interesting about this song in light of the recent hullabaloo over Taurus and Led Zeppelin is how much the opening guitar riff sounds similar to Head East’s “Never Been Any Reason”. I didn’t know a hell of a lot about Head East before I started working on this book, but came across “Never Been Any Reason” in the process of doing my research and was blown away when I heard it for the first time. AC/DC opened for Head East in Milwaukee in 1977. So the two bands crossed paths.

6. “Rock ’N’ Roll Damnation”
(Powerage, 1978)

It’s hard to get my head around the fact Mick Wall, the British rock writer and author of AC/DC: Hell Ain’t a Bad Place to Be, called this “a two-bit piece of head-bopping guff.” Not sure what track he was listening to when he wrote that -- maybe he was having a bad day -- but for me it’s one of the last of AC/DC’s classic boogie tracks and probably the best.

Mark Evans loves it almost as much as he loves “Highway to Hell". It has everything you want in an AC/DC song plus shakers, tambourines and handclaps, a real Motown touch that George Young and Harry Vanda brought to bear on the recording. They did something similar with the John Paul Young hit “Love Is in the Air”. Percussion was an underlying feature of many early AC/DC songs. This one really grooves. I never get tired of hearing it.

“Rock ’n’ Roll Damnation” was AC/DC’s first hit in the UK charts and a lot of the credit has to go to Michael Klenfner, best known as the fat guy with the moustache who stops Jake and Elwood backstage in the final reel of The Blues Brothers and offers them a recording contract. He was senior vice-president at Atlantic at the time, and insisted the band go back and record a radio-worthy single after they delivered the first cut of Powerage to New York.

Michael was a real champion of AC/DC behind the scenes at Atlantic, and never got the recognition he was due while he was still alive (he passed away in 2009). He ended up having a falling out with Atlantic president Jerry Greenberg over the choice of producer for Highway to Hell and got fired. But it was Klenfner who arguably did more for the band than anyone else while they were at Atlantic. His story deserves to be known by the fans.

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