Television used to give us plenty of perfect parents.
Father knew best. Ozzie and Harriet had it all figured out; so did the Bradys, the Huxtables and more.
But now comes “Breeders” (shown here) which is sort of about the rest of us.
“When you become a parent,” said Simon Blackwell, one of the show’s creators, “you’re given this perfect human being …. And theoretically, you can do it perfectly. But you won’t and you will fail.”
The small failures and frustrations – and sometimes the huge ones – propel “Breeders” in wildly funny directions. In the first episode, Paul and Ally (Martin Freeman and Daisy Haggard) simply can’t get any sleep. In the second, they go way too far to get their kids into the right school.
These aren’t your cliché evil parents, said Chris Addison, another of the creators. There’s “a loving couple at the center of it …. They’re just making the mistakes that we all make, because we’ve never brought up children until we have to.”
The idea started, Blackwell said, when Freeman had a dream that’s duplicated in the first scene: He vows to do better, strides into the kids’ room … and explodes into a burst of expletives.
He promptly called the other two, who have been busy on British TV – Blackwell as a writer-procucer, Addison as a comedian. “They ended up kind of being like a fathers’ support group,” Freeman said, “where we … talked about some of the worst things we had done or what happened to us as parents.”
There are plenty to choose from. “When my oldest son was very little, he wouldn’t leave a toy store,” Blackwell recalled. “And I carried him out like a roll of carpet under my arm, at which point he shouted: ‘This man is not my daddy!’”
Freeman’s own kids are 14 and 11. “If anyone ever asks me ‘What’s “Breeders” about,’” he said. “My kids will pipe up and say, ‘It’s a show about how much he hates us.’
“And I’m like, ‘It’s not quite that, but …’”
Actually, he said, they both like “Breeders” and seem to enjoy their parents’ shows. Life can be interesting when you dad starred in the Hobbit movies, your mom (Amanda Abbington) does a voice on “Dinopaws” and both co-star (as the Watsons) in the “Sherlock” series.
Haggard is at an earlier point, with kids who are 5 and 2. “I definitely come to work with the imprint of children on my body,” she said, “because they will sleep on me through the night.”
Things got the busiest when she was co-writing, producing and starring in “Back to Life,” the acclaimed Showtime mini-series. “I’d put the kids to bed every night and then I’d set my alarm for 3 in the morning and do rewrites.”
In “Breeders,” Paul and Ally try to be modern, liberal parents … something they haven’t seen. His parents are old-school and doddering; her dad suddenly re-appears after a long absence.
“Occasionally, you get a postcard from this guy,” said Michael McKean, who plays him. “But he fancies himself a world-traveler, which is another word for freeloader.”
He provides an extra layer of imperfection, in their attempts to discover perfect parenting.
– “Breeders,” 10 p.m. Mondays, FX
– Opens March 2 with two episodes; they rerun at 11:14 p.m.
– Also, they air late on Monday, Thursday and Friday nights; technically, those are at 1:32 a.m. Tuesday, 12:29 a.m. Friday and 12:31 a.m. Saturday.
– This launches the new “FX on Hulu” hub. Each Tuesday, the new episode will be on Hulu; the same is true for most other FX shows. The hub will also have a library of past shows.