This is the show that got adoption groups all in a tizzy and prompted over 5,000 complaints to FOX. One FOX affiliate even decided to drop the show in favour of a documentary on adoption. So what was all the fuss about? Was it really that offensive?
Who’s Your Daddy opens with our host, Finola Hughes (formerly of General Hospital and Pacific Palisades). She explains the idea of the show; a woman who was adopted as a very young child will meet eight men, one of whom is her birth father. Through a series of eliminations, this woman will narrow the field down until she thinks she has chosen her dad, at which point she will reunite with him and win $100,000 – if she chooses correctly. If she chooses the wrong man in the end, he’ll get the money.
TJ Meyers is the adoptee, and she explains that she was adopted at the tender age of six weeks. She’s been searching for her real parents for years. When she was 12, her adopted parents divorced, which was hard for her, but she still loves them both. At a family gathering when she was a child, she was told by an aunt that she “didn’t count” because she was adopted, and that hurt her tremendously. I can’t imagine having an aunt who could be so heartless.
It’s time for TJ to meet the eight men who all claim to be her father. Finola brings her to the door of a mansion (which, interestingly, looks a lot like the Joe Millionaire mansion), and the ‘fathers’ walk out, standing on either side of the stair rails.
The actual father gets to add his commentary as the show progresses, through a voice-altering device and a shadowy silhouette. He says that it was hard for him not to just run down and hug TJ when he saw her.
TJ is overwhelmed and starts crying. She searches all of their faces as they introduce themselves. They are: Carl, Scott, Charlie, Peter, Ray, Rick, Jerry, and Sam. More than a couple of these men look very emotional, and some even have tears in their eyes. I want to think that it’s because this is an emotional experience for everyone involved, but it’s a little disturbing to see how far these guys are taking the daddy act. Only one of them is the real deal – the rest are putting it on for show.
TJ talks about her instincts – she felt a strong connection with Scott right away, and Sam kept lowering his eyes like he was overcome with emotion. She feels these two have potential.
It’s time now for a cocktail party, where the dads are seated two at a table and TJ gets to go around the room and talk to each pair. Kind of like speed-dating, only it’s speed-“who’s your daddying”. TJ asks questions like “what words would your friends use to describe you”. The answers are varied, and TJ is constantly distracted, looking around the room not wanting to miss catching a glimpse of her father.
After the party, the men are told there’s a buffet waiting for them as TJ is taken to a private room with Finola. TJ gets to watch the men on hidden cameras as they eat. She talks about her impressions – Rick’s features aren’t like hers, Scott still gives her a strong vibe, one likes M&M’s just like she does, and another eats the cherry on his ice cream, which is something she would never do. She’s obviously nervous and anxious, putting too much emphasis on the tiny little details.
Finola explains to TJ that it’s time for the first elimination. She will have to narrow the field down to four men. The audience and TJ both wonder what will happen if TJ eliminates her dad in the first cut, but Finola explains that there is a plan to avoid that, which she will explain later. Hmm.
TJ makes her decisions and exits the spy-room to meet up with Finola and the eight dads. Finola explains that TJ will now divide the men into two groups of four – those she thinks could be her dad, and those she thinks are not. If her real father is in the group she’s selected as potential dads, then they get to stay; if not, then the rejected group stays and TJ loses $25,000 from her prize money. Finola emphasizes that TJ’s father cannot be eliminated.
TJ calls the men down one by one and tells them if she thinks they could be her dad or not. She decides to eliminate Sam, Jerry, Ray, and Peter. Finola announces that TJ has chosen correctly and her real father is in the group she picked to stay. The departing men introduce themselves once again, this time using their real names and occupations.
The dads that are left all look rather emotional. Charlie is smiling with tears in his eyes, while Carl is bawling like a baby. At this point I’m thinking that Carl had better be the real daddy, or else he’s just being cruel.
The next day TJ is still rehashing everything that’s gone on thus far. I can’t even imagine what kind of mess her mind is in, with the pressure to pick the right man. She says a few times that she’s very scared of hurting her dad’s feelings by choosing the wrong guy. She noticed that Charlie was looking at her like he was very proud of her for her choices, and she’s still feeling a strong connection with Scott.
TJ goes to the kitchen to meet up once again with Finola, who tells TJ that her dad was once a very good disco dancer and once won a dance competition. TJ is duly impressed and says that she wanted to be a Solid Gold dancer when she was a kid. Who didn’t?
Finola explains that TJ will now get to see the four remaining men bust a move on the dance floor. They’ve set up a pseudo-disco in the mansion, and TJ has to teach the men a new dance routine. The guys come out and don’t look too thrilled with this activity.
The entire scene is a bit awkward, but TJ does her best to teach these men some disco moves. After that, they each get 30 seconds to “freestyle” for her. Quite honestly none of them look like an award-winning dancer, but TJ decides that Scott has the best sense of rhythm. Carl does some kind of arm-flailing thing that was, quite frankly, a bit frightening. Rick just gets out there and hams it up, smiling the whole time. Charlie’s dancing is average – he looks a bit shy but he seems to be enjoying himself.
After the dance party, TJ goes into a make-shift office set up in the mansion, where Finola tells her that she now has the opportunity to ‘talk’ with her dad over the internet. Her dad greets her with “Hi Sweetheart”, which he says were his first words to her after she was born. TJ asks questions about her biological mother and their relationship, and wants to know if she looks like her mother at all. The conversation is touching, and TJ is overwhelmed once again with emotion.
At the end of the chat, Dad tells TJ that he’ll get her for that dance thing. This stops TJ cold – Rick had said something very similar to that when they first started the disco routine. Could Rick be her Daddy?
Finola comes back in and tells TJ that it’s time to eliminate two of the men. TJ thinks over her decision, looking at the computer screen where pictures of the four remaining guys appear.
As the men line up outside once again. TJ comes out and is ready to split them into two groups. Two men will be eliminated, and two will stay. Again, if the real dad is in the group that TJ picks to stay, then she keeps her prize money and they move on. If Daddy is in the group chosen for elimination, then that group stays and TJ loses $25,000.
TJ decides that Rick and Carl are not her father, leaving Scott and Charlie as the chosen two. Finola tells them that TJ has once again chosen correctly. So Carl isn’t the father and his tears were fake. Charming. As he leaves though, he wishes TJ the best and says “God Bless”. Maybe the whole thing was overwhelming for him too, and the tears were just a way to release that. I sure hope so; otherwise the man is a monster.
Charlie again looks quiet but thrilled, and Scott just stands there half-smiling. Either Charlie is the father and he can’t keep the pride out of his eyes, or Scott is the father and he’s terrified of letting any emotion show. Either situation is understandable at this point.
Finola takes TJ into the mansion and shows her a video of a man who says he has been friends with TJ’s dad since second grade. This man explains that her mom and dad met in high school, and both were very popular and kind to everyone. Mom was 17 when she got pregnant, and at that time Dad had just enlisted in the military and was about to be shipped out to Vietnam. Dad somehow got leave when TJ was born, and when he held her at the hospital he wanted to make a break for it and bolt out with his baby. The nurses noticed this and had two wardens block the door. TJ’s dad has been searching for her ever since he returned from Vietnam.
TJ is thrilled to learn that her father has been looking for her. The story she’s just heard touches her deeply, and makes her even more emotional and determined to choose the right man. She is also still afraid of hurting her father even more by picking the wrong guy.
TJ gets one more chance to speak with each of the men. She has a question that she’s always wanted to ask, and she knows that one man will be feeding her a story while the other will be telling her the truth. She feels confident that she will know which one is which.
Scott comes out first, and TJ asks him why he gave her up. He tearfully explains that he and her mother were very young, and since he was being shipped out to Vietnam, they just couldn’t keep her even though they both wanted to. He gives her a gift of a plush Black Lab, and TJ is touched since that’s her favourite type of dog. Is it a sign?
Charlie is next, and TJ asks him the same question. He repeats the story, adding that her mom really did want to keep her. He tells her that he named her Tammy Michelle. He says that he’s been searching for her for a very long time, and that he had a promise from God that they would be reunited one day. Charlie cries and truly looks genuine. He has a gift for TJ as well, and explains that the gifts that mean the most to him are the ones that the giver has created with their own two hands. He has drawn a portrait of Tammy Michelle as he sees her in his mind, and has seen her every night for the last twenty years. The picture is no Picasso, but it’s heartfelt and TJ grasps the sentiment involved.
Alone to ponder her choice, TJ lists all of the qualities of each man, and what leads her to believe that each one could be her father. Finola tells TJ that it’s time to make her final decision.
Finola and TJ stand in front of a closed door, where we can see the shadow of a man standing behind it. TJ is to address this man and state her choice, at which point her father will come out and the two will be reunited. If TJ has made the right choice, she will win the $100,000. If she has chosen incorrectly, that man will win the money. Either way, TJ’s dad is the one who will come through the door.
TJ walks agonizingly slowly towards the door, and tells the man that she has seen admirable qualities in him throughout the time they’ve been there. She remembers that he told her to be strong, and she believes that she has been and that he is proud of her. She believes that her father is … Charlie.
The doors open, and Charlie emerges. TJ has chosen correctly. They embrace and cry and hold on to each other, as Finola beams in the background. Even I’m getting a little teary-eyed now. Charlie asks TJ to forgive him, and she does.
Scoot comes out and tells TJ his real name, and wishes the two of them well. Charlie also reveals that his real name is Robert. Oy, how confusing. Finola guides the happy pair back into the mansion.
Charlie, er, Robert explains to TJ that he is married and has three daughters. They get to see a video with pictures of Robert’s wife and children – then the daughters are brought out. TJ cries some more and hugs them, thanking them for letting their Dad do this.
Robert has one more surprise up his sleeve, and he looks very anxious to deliver this one. He says that he and TJ’s mother, Bobbie-Jean, have stayed in touch all these years … and out she comes. TJ rushes to embrace her biological mom, and Char, I mean Robert cries softly to himself. Bobbie-Jean explains that she was so young when she became pregnant that she was sent to an unwed-mothers’ home. The four parents got together and decided that since Robert and Bobbie weren’t married and Robert was leaving for Vietnam, that they shouldn’t keep their baby. Privately Bobbie says that she sees much of herself in TJ.
So there we have it. The show that caused so much uproar turned out to be not-so-bad after all. Cheesy and over the top, sure, but this is a FOX reality show. Anything less would be disappointing.
Apparently FOX has a few more episodes of “Who’s Your Daddy” filmed and ready to air. Whether or not we’ll get to see them remains a mystery.
Comments are welcome! Do you agree that the show wasn’t all that bad, or do you think that just the idea alone is horrendous? Did FOX finally go too far? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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