Monday, September 30, 2013

Pilot Review: We Are Men


We Are Men (Mondays at 8:30 on CBS; Premieres September 30)

Remember when comedies had leading men who were funny? When sitcoms could revolve around male characters who had charm, warmth and humor? When men on shows like these could interact with women without demeaning them and did not need to make homophobic or misogynist jokes to assert their masculinity? Good thing we have those memories, because We Are Men is the latest comedy to prove that that type of show is long gone.

Carter (Chris Smith, who is as boring as his name) was left at the altar by his fiancee. To get himself back together, he moves into a temporary housing unit for single men, where he bonds and forms friendships with three of them: twice divorced OB/GYN Stuart (Jerry O'Connell); four-time divorced clothing manufacturer and self-ordained ladies' man Frank (Tony Shalhoub); and Gil (Kal Penn), a meek little mouse who was having the world's most ridiculous affair. And the plot is basically that these four guys just sit around and talk about women. It's The Man Show, but scripted and without any laughs.

You would think with a cast like this one, starring critically acclaimed and fan-favorite actors like Shalhoub, O'Connell and Penn, that the material would be great. You would think there was something about the script (since it certainly wasn't the tired, backwards-thinking concept) that made these men want to participate in We Are Men. For the life of me, I can't figure it out. There is not a single thing about the show that I found funny: not the dialogue, not the performances, not the situations. Nothing. It's vacuous. A whole 23 minutes of my life was sucked up by this black hole of a series. If I were Tony Shalhoub or Jerry O'Connell or Kal Penn, I'd be embarrassed to have my name and face attached to We Are Men. Newcomer Chris Smith is amateurish, the direction is blah, and the writing is childish.

Tell me, please, where the comedy is in Jerry O'Connell parading around the entire pilot in a bikini bottom bathing suit. Did you find that statement funny? Because apparently everyone involved with We Are Men found it hysterical, since it's an on-going joke in the first episode. The remainder of the comedy revolves around the men making horribly offensive jokes at the expense of women. They talk non-stop (and I do mean non-stop; if the Bechdel Test were reversed to be about men discussing women, not a single scene would pass) about how much they love women, how much they hate women, how much they want to have sex with women, how much they miss women, how beautiful women are, how ugly women are, and on and on and on. It's exhausting, and nothing they say is at all original. It's the kind of observational gender-based humor that made sitcoms in the 1960s and 1970s funny. But it's also the kind of humor that makes a sitcom in 2013 totally dated.

Speaking of gender-based humor, what is with the glut of sitcoms lately centered around the (false) idea that American manhood is dying, and it's all because of women?  It's stupid, and the shows which are born out of this idea aren't funny (Man Up!, Work It, Guys with Kids, Last Man Standing). We Are Men is just the latest to fall into that category of testosterone-fueled stupidity.

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