[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]f you were a fan of primetime TV, or of Major League Baseball, in the fall of 2003, the phrase “His Father is the District Attorney!” likely carries special meaning for you.
It was 15 years ago. That year’s baseball playoffs featured such memorable moments as Cubs fan Steve Bartman interfering with a play at Wrigley Field and Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez throwing elderly Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground after Zimmer charged at him. The Yankees beat the Red Sox, the Marlins beat the Cubs, and Florida went on to win their second World Series.
But that baseball postseason was memorable for something else. One particular phrase. “His father is the district attorney!”
See, the playoffs at that time – as they do now – aired on the Fox Network. Fox, that year and every other, used its baseball broadcasts to promote its upcoming new fall TV shows.
One of its new shows that fall was a new drama called “Skin,” which was a dramatic “Romeo and Juliet” allegory from mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Except this time, the lovers, played by future star Olivia Wilde and future not-star D.J. Cotrona, were the daughter and son of two implacable enemies: The district attorney of Los Angeles (Kevin Anderson), and a notorious pornographer (Ron Silver).
It was never especially made clear why the Los Angeles DA would have as his main rival a porn mogul and not, say, murderers or gang leaders or drug dealers. But at any rate, Skin was a major new series for Fox that fall, and commercials for it ran in near-constant rotation during just about every game of that year’s baseball postseason. And every one of them featured Ron Silver’s reaction to his daughter’s choice of boyfriend: “His father is the district attorney!”
The catchphrase was ubiquitous in Internet baseball commentary that fall, especially the columns of the hugely influential ESPN columnist Bill Simmons, as well as the nerd-oriented baseball blogs that were seriously ascendant at the time, just a few months after the publication of “Moneyball.”
…baseball and TV fans have often tried to figure out the most memorable baseball postseason-adjacent TV promos.
Why was this funny? Really, nothing but sheer repetition, stoked by the pop culture-savvy baseball Internet. Just as music aficionados attempt to figure out which tune each year should be considered the “song of summer,” baseball and TV fans have often tried to figure out the most memorable baseball postseason-adjacent TV promos. In the decade and a half since, nothing has touched “His Father is the District Attorney.”
Longer Lasting Legacy than the Series Itself
The series earned a TV Tropes page (“repeating ad”), as well as a long New York Times feature, which revealed that Ron Silver prepared for the role by “meeting with pornography business executives like Larry Flynt and performers like Jenna Jameson; reading magazines and watching videos.” The idea was to make Silver’s character, Larry Goldman, into a dramatic antihero, a la Tony Soprano or NYPD Blue’s Andy Sipowicz, that audiences would find fascinating.
But Larry Goldman wouldn’t have nearly the longevity of either. “His Father is the District Attorney” may have gotten tons of attention, but it failed to deliver eyeballs to the show itself. Skin was cancelled that fall after just three episodes – I remember watching one of them — although the remaining five episodes were finally seen two years later when SOAPnet picked up the series. Also, the entire first episode is on YouTube:
Even so, the legacy of “His Father is the District Attorney” remains secure, especially in online commentary. The AV Club revisited “Skin” in 2015, calling it “part teen soap, part adult drama and all failure,” but mostly praising the show. TV critic Alan Sepinwall, who has written multiple books about the prestige series that Skin tried and failed to emulate, has continued to reference “His Father is the District Attorney” for years afterward.
“…part teen soap, part adult drama and all failure”
When Ron Silver died of cancer in 2009, after a long and distinguished acting career that also included a huge amount of political activism, his short-lived TV catchphrase was mentioned in multiple obituaries and remembrances.
It’s still mentioned to this day, often in comparison to whatever series is being heavily promoted during that year’s baseball playoffs.
Also: +250 odds that I get choked up upon seeing Ron Silver in the Dead Montage. HIS FATHER IS THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY!!!
— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) March 8, 2010
His father is the district attorney, you see. So a relationship with that strumpet is simply out of the question.
— Dayn Perry (@daynperry) September 30, 2014
Need help creating a bot that tweets "His father is the district attorney!" to @oliviawilde at 9 am every day.
— David G Temple (@davidgtemple) October 22, 2013
Fifteen years later, the Yankees and Red Sox are playing each other in October again, and we remember the greatest fall TV promo of all. And thanks to YouTube, which wouldn’t come along until the next year, you can even spend ten minutes remembering it: