Posted on February 24th, 2014 by Beth Finke
Did you see the debut of that new TV comedy last night about a father who is blind? I sure didn’t.
That wasn’t meant as a joke, but the way NBC has been promoting the show, I wonder if that’s the sort of humor they’ll be using in the new comedy Growing Up Fisher. When I said I didn’t see the debut, I meant I didn’t hear the show, either. We turned the TV off after the closing ceremonies for the Winter Olympics last night.
Growing Up Fisher has very talented people like Jason Bateman (executive producer) and David Schwimmer (director) behind it, and J.K. Simmons, a fine actor, plays the dad who is blind. It could be good, but if those commercials with the dad blindly wielding a chainsaw and driving a car are any indication, I doubt it.
I’ve run across plenty of people raised by dads who are blind, and they have interesting stories to tell. That’s Bob Ringwald, Molly’s father (pictured). So let’s start with Molly Ringwald. You know, the actress in all those John Hughes movies in the 1980s? Her father is blind. My brother Doug is a professional jazz trombonist, and he introduced me to Molly’s dad Bob Ringwald, a talented professional jazz pianist, years ago. Molly has written a few novels, and she was asked about her dad during an NPR interview about her books. She told Scott Simon that as a child she enjoyed sitting with him during movies and plays to describe the action. “I actually think that that informed my writing,” she said. “That’s something that I’ve done for so long, that it’s made me, perhaps, observe things in a different way.”
And then there’s Gore Vidal. After the famous writer and critic died in 2012, Bob Edwards Weekend replayed an interview conducted at Vidal’s home in Los Angeles in 2006. Vidal was raised by his grandfather, a U.S. Senator from Oklahoma. Sen. Thomas Gore was blind, and Vidal was 10 years old when he started reading to him. “I read grown-up books to him: constitutional law, the Congressional Record, American history, poetry,” Vidal said. ”He was extraordinary, he was my education.” Vidal guided his grandfather to Senate hearings, and he said he didn’t dare fall asleep while sitting in the balcony waiting for the session to be over—at any moment his grandfather might give a hand signal to let young Vidal know to skedaddle down the Senate stairs to guide him to the bathroom.
Growing up with a father who is blind can be interesting, and funny, too, at times. A live performance of This American Life opened with Vancouver writer Ryan Knighton telling a story about a walk in the woods he took alone with his young daughter. Knighton is blind, and when she started screaming about a bear, he panicked. After weighing his options, he realized that her frantic cries of “bear!” were only in reaction to dropping her teddy bear on the ground. Knighton’s most recent book C’mon Papa: Dispatches from a Dad in the Dark is full of funny—and frightening—stories of his first years as a father. His daughter Tes is seven years old now, and I’m sure she has some very entertaining stories to tell.
So that’s why I skipped Growing Up Fisher last night. With true and engaging accounts like these of fathers who can’t see, who needs fiction? If you watched Growing Up Fisher last night and liked — or didn’t like — what you saw, I hope you’ll consider leaving a comment here and let me know what I missed.