Friday, November 4, 2011

Pilot Inspektor Tim: Man Up

The show: Man Up, Tuesdays on ABC

The premise in ten words or less? Some guys hang out.

Any good? Man Up is the epitome of a show that is almost impossible to summon any kind of feelings, thoughts, or emotions for upon completion of an episode beyond "that was an episode of television I just watched." It doesn't trigger the gag reflex the way the likes of Whitney and Last Man Standing do, but it also packs no more than two or three small chuckles into 22 minutes and has as limp and soggy a non-premise as any new show I've watched this fall. Even 2 Broke Girls, while yukky and laugh tracky as hell, has more personality and more of a narrative.

Okay, I'll try my best to describe what the show is about. At its center are three guys, Mather Zickel's Will, Dan Fogler's Kenny, and Christopher Moynihan's Craig. They play a lot of video games and work in insurance and grapple, for some reason, with the fact that they are not as masculine as the generations of men that have come before them. Will has a wife and a son and Kenny, as is Fogler's style, has a more abrasive, Jonah Hill-in-Superbad type personality, but other than that not much differentiates the characters.

Now, on a performance level, there's nothing particularly wrong with the show. The sheer energy with which Fogler flings himself into every line of dialogue even inspires a little smirk here and there, and Henry Simmons manages to make Kenny's ex-girlfriend's new, physically perfect beau, Grant, pretty likable as he gradually becomes the fourth member of the clique. But it's hard to judge when none of them have any particularly engaging or funny dialogue put in their mouths.

There's a weird ABC network synergy going on between this and the awful new Tim Allen show Last Man Standing, as both are about men upset about the death of traditional masculinity, with Allen's bitterness targeted at the world around him and the Man Up guys' at themselves. In one scene Will's wife Theresa (played by Teri Polo, who I guess most people associate with her role in the Meet the Parents franchise but who was more importantly in The West Wing) chastises her husband for never having fought in a war like his father and grandfather, and he actually seems emasculated by this observation; strange, alien behavior with no foothold in reality from either side.

But, stupid and bizarre as the show's theme may be, at least it attempts to have one. On a story level, it's thin to the point of anemic; there's just nothing to the narrative beyond "here's some guys, watch them." It makes loosely-plotted hangout shows like New Girl and Happy Endings and Up All Night look like Arrested Development in comparison.

Will I watch again? I'd watch it before its thematic / network sibling Last Man Standing, but then again I'd rather watch a recording sent from the future of my own death than Last Man Standing, so that isn't saying much. I'd say Up All Night is a baseline for the absolute minimum quality level a sitcom needs to meet for me to watch it, and Man Up does not meet that level. So no.

Premise: C-

Execution: C

Performances: B-

Potential: B-


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