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CBS is unveiling four comedies that range from partially funny in a CBS-does-this-a-lot kind of way to unbearably asinine. Collectively, they represent a massive waste of talent, but it’s no great mystery why all the actors and series creators wanted to be in business with CBS.
Because the comedies on CBS do big business. Hell, almost everything does big business on CBS. In a rapidly shrinking world of available audience, dazzled by so many options, what CBS is accomplishing these recent years is nothing short of amazing. So, hey, if you make a broad show and you want it to reach a broad audience then the place you want to be is broadcast television in the form of CBS.
More viewers perhaps makes people feel like their work is of more value. But ratings have never, ever been an indication of quality. Still, the urge to have your work seen by the most eyeballs possible is not too difficult to understand.
What is more confounding is why anyone would want to watch We Are Men (followed in short order by, what is Tony Shalhoub thinking with this thing?). In a best-cast scenario, not talking about We Are Men means that you might not have the urge to tune in. In a worst case scenario — wait, what could be worse than CBS already putting this on the air? Oh, right, the fact that it could be popular and stay there.
Let me see if I can relate the We Are Men premise to you in perhaps the way it was pitched: Guys be guys.
You got that? It’s like someone pitched the worst possible version ever of Men Of A Certain Age, which was the last really good series about men.
Anyway, guys be guys. (Is that guy talk?) Right? Guys do stupid things because they are genetically manipulated to do them. It’s a gender thing. They just want to eat burgers, drive in cool cars and get laid a lot. And not have rules or certainly not responsibility. They need to be bros before hos. And if they get married, man, they’ve gotta get out of that nonsense as soon as possible because women are both evil and also a lot smarter than men. That’s a terrible combination because once you get laid, then you get married and there’s a bunch of rules that are in no way bro-tastic. But because they’re smart, women devise ways to keep their dudes neutered. You know? Like, they can’t have any fun. It’s so much more fun hanging out with just dudes. Four swingin’ dicks is way more fun than two couples, if you know what I mean.
Actually, I don’t even know what I mean. I only know that watching We Are Men made me feel stupid almost immediately and then bitter that I’d wasted the time. But maybe that’s because I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the four male representatives of this series, nor hear the actors portraying them say any more “jokes.” And honestly, I tried to write down things that sounded like jokes. “We’re men and we love each other” was something I wrote down. Also something about “Band of brothers.” But then my brain shrunk down to the size of a walnut and I just turned on NASCAR instead.
But then I watched Mom and I didn’t like that, either, mostly because it was dumb and obvious and formulaic. And there are only so many over-the-top (does Chuck Lorre do anything under the top or, say, subtle?) jokes about debauchery and bad parenting than one person can handle. In this series, Allison Janney was a terrible mom. Drugs. Drink. Bad behavior. She’s basically a ’70s metal band world tour poured into a mother figure. Her daughter is Anna Faris, who is also in recovery. Because recovery jokes are endlessly funny. And mommy dearest type jokes are endlessly funny, too. And sex jokes. With my brain shrunk down to the size of a walnut, it was hard to write legibly. But here are a few things I wrote down with quotes: “Smart kid. That’s my semen at work.” “Mom, I’m not having sex!” “Don’t lie to the woman who washes your sheets.” And this: “Get over yourself…I saw you at McDonald’s going down on a Big Mac.”
At that point, all I remember was that things became hazy, and a white light crowded the edges of my vision as my hearing was lost. I saw good actors mouthing what I’m just going to boldly say were terrible lines based on what I had written down. And then I woke up, many hours later, drained of the will to watch television.
Of course, both of these shows will probably be enormous hits. I’m only telling you what I saw and how it scarred me. You can make your own decision.
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William Jackson Harper
Friends: The Reunion