The show: How to Be a Gentleman, Thursdays on CBS
The premise in ten words or less? Prissy gentleman joins gym, learns to become a man's man.
Any good? Well, of the three new multi-cams I've seen this fall – this, Whitney, and 2 Broke Girls – I'd say it's probably the best (probably better than 2 Broke Girls, indifuckingsputably better than Whitney), if only on account of a strong cast: David Hornsby of Always Sunny (who also created the show and wrote the pilot), Dave Foley of NewsRadio, Mary Lynn Rajskub of 24, Rhys Darby of Flight of the Conchords, and, uh, Kevin Dillon of Entourage. Ok, the last one makes me cringe out of association, but if I try to scrub Entourage from my brain, I do grant that Dillon has a type he plays well.
Whether or not they're actually given anything funny to work with remains in dispute, edging towards no. It's a setup-heavy pilot to be certain, which doesn't bug me at all (if you follow this blog you know that Community is my favorite sitcom on the air, and its pilot is 100% setup), but the setup seems almost more interested in establishing locations than compelling characters.
David Hornsby's protagonist Andrew Carlson writes a column sharing the title of the show for a men's magazine – location number one being the magazine offices, although we never see anything outside of his boss's office – but when the magazine decides to take a more Maxim-style approach, he is instructed to butch up his column or pack his stuff. So he joins a gym run by his former high school nemesis Bert – the gym being location number two – and, in return for tormenting him when they were kids, Bert agrees to teach Andrew how to be a real man. And the third location is Andrew's mom's house, where he eats dinner with his mom, sister, and brother-in-law (the brother-in-law also joins the gym, which is good as it prevents the locales from being totally disconnected).
None of this sounds too bad, but the real problem lies in how the characters are largely one-note caricatures assigned the exact same broad, hammy humor that you usually find in these multi-cam affairs. Also, the entire "Man up! RARGH REAL MEN" premise and vibe of the show, while I suppose providing a nice counterpoint to The Big Bang Theory for CBS sitcom devotees, truly doesn't appeal to me in the least. That said, there's a scene where Kevin Dillon as Bert spends like a minute of screentime chugging down an entire carton of milk that threw off the calculatedly mechanical rhythm of the show in a slightly amusing way.
Like CBS's 2 Broke Girls, How to Be a Gentleman's supposed appeal is rooted in the friendship of two strong and initially opposed archetypal leads, but more so than 2 Broke Girls this show succeeds in at least putting funny actors in its supporting roles. Rhys Darby probably comes closest of anyone in the cast to earning a laugh via pure New Zealand spunk as the brother-in-law. So if you absolutely must watch a new multi-cam this season, I'd go with this one by just a little bit. It's sure as hell better than the show it replaced, $#*! My Dad Says. No one on earth can deny that.
Will I watch again? When a gentleman is confronted with a multi-cam laugh track sitcom pilot in the year 2011... he chooses to change the channel.