'Man Up' Review: The Downfall of Men in Comedy
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Television right now is a woman's world. After years of being dominated
by men, it's refreshing to see female-based, female-created shows
succeeding. The five new comedies that have already been picked up for a
full season (New Girl, 2 Broke Girls, Whitney, Up All Night and Suburgatory) all have strong female leads and are all created or co-created by women.
So already, the new ABC sitcom Man Up (Tuesdays at 8:30pm) seems
woefully out of place this season. The fact that it's painfully unfunny
and embarrassingly uncomfortable doesn't help.
The show attempts to address the "metrosexualization" of men in America by focusing on three male friends attempting to reclaim their manhood. The fact that they discuss these issues while playing video games like a bunch of little boys is beside the point.
As far as comedy goes, Man Up is woefully lacking. The jokes fall flat and seem tragically misguided. The discussions about what manliness is all about seem rooted more in primitive, caveman culture than in what the characters' fathers represented. They idealize men as warriors and macho men as opposed to the kinds of guys who get manicures and aren't afraid to show their emotions.
Rather than take issue with all of the jokes, I'll focus my wrath on one character: Dan Fogler's Kenny. The Tony-winning actor might have some talent, but it's not on display here as he plays a bitter, angry manchild whose violent outbursts are supposed to be funny, but instead come across as sociopathic. His entire performance is so frenetic that instead of laughing, I just wished everyone else would put him in a mental health institution to get the anger management he so desperately needs.
Aside from the total lack of humor, the worst part of Man Up may be its attempt at social commentary. The idea that men should act like "men" is preposterously out-of-date and poorly executed on this show. If you're really interested in seeing some cogent analysis, I strongly recommend checking out the second episode of the upcoming PBS documentary series America in Primetime.
Airing on Sunday, November 6, the episode "Man of the House" has actors and TV showrunners analyzing the evolution of portrayals of men in television, from the early days of know-it-all dads like Ward Cleaver to the introspective '80s men on thirtysomething to Tony Soprano. This last one seems particularly appropriate since, in many ways, The Sopranos addressed the same issues as Man Up. Tony Soprano was a man who admired people like Gary Cooper, the strong, silent type, yet the fact that he sought psychiatric treatment, something Cooper would never do, raised serious turmoil in Tony's mind.
That dichotomy of wanting to be a strong, silent man while confronting and acknowledging your own inner feelings is kind of what Man Up is trying to get at, but fails to achieve.
So skip Man Up, set your DVR for the PBS documentary series American in Primetime (which also includes fascinating looks at independent women, heroes and misfits) and enjoy the fact that women are in control of TV comedy.
(Image courtesy of ABC)