Summer 2012 Review: Men at Work

7 Jul

TBS postured its endless series of Men at Work ads throughout the NBA Playoffs (endless is if anything, an understatement, as they appeared at every commercial break at least once in a couple of different forms – scenes from the show, actors talking about their characters, actors pretending to just be hanging out and having a good time) as a show just about men being men.  It’s the anti-Community or insert your favorite super smart deep and layered comedy-here – it’s turn the brain off, and sit down and have some fun, a couple of laughs, and hang out with the bros doing bro stuff.

The problem with that philosophy is that when you go out trying to make a stupid show, you usually end up with a stupid show.

Our main characters are four dudes who are good friends and also co-workers at what appears to be a magazine of some sort.  The show is apparently supposed to be set in New York, which I would never have known except for an offhand reference at the end, it looks far more like the non-descript soundstage on which it’s surely filmed.  If I’ve complained about shows claiming to be set in New York but looking nothing like New York once, I’ve done it a thousand times, but since there’s far worse things about this show, I’ll note it once and move on.

The four guys are all played by TV veterans.  That 70s Show’s Danny Masterson plays Milo, whose girlfriend (played by Amy Smart, who you’d think they’d bring back because why else have someone of her level of fame be in the show for thirty seconds) breaks up with him in the first episode.  His buds are Tyler, played by Michael Cassidy, who had recurring roles in Smallville and The O.C., Gibbs, played by James Lesure who was the sidekick on Las Vegas for several years (it’s definitely sad that Gibbs just makes me think of NCIS) and nerdish Neal, played my hometown East Meadow’s own Adam Busch, who recurred as Season 6 villain Warren in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Neal is the only one in a long-term relationship with his girlfriend Amy, while the others are single and ready to mingle.

I used this word when describing Charlie Sheen’s Anger Management, but it’s just as true here; everything about the show is retrograde.  The laugh track, the that’s-what-men-do situations and banter; it’s like the show ignored the past decade of the evolution of comedy.  I realize there’s an implicit judgment here, but comedy has come so far not just with edgy, interesting shows, but with shows that even simply take the classic formula and just modernize it.  Parks and Recreation is a great example of this.  There’s nothing wild about it’s set up, it’s a workplace comedy essentially but it’s smart, funny, and doesn’t talk down to the viewer.  There’s also room for comedies that don’t make you think a ton; It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia isn’t layered or filled with deeper meaning, but it’s downright hilarious. Easy un-thinking viewing shouldn’t require a lot of thinking for the viewer, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t require thinking for the writers.

Men at Work features old, tired, tropes about what being a man is and treats these tropes in extremely unfunny ways.  No real people hang out like this, and if they did I certainly wouldn’t want to watch it.  The boys take their moping, newly broken up with friend, out to the bar to hit on some hotties and get “rebound ass” (in even more obnoxious fashion, the screen helpfully highlights with a TBS-provided definition of what rebound ass means).

Also, it’s worth noting that the show is created by of all people, actor Breckin Meyer, currently starring in TBS sister network TNT hour long Franklin and Bash (as…Franklin?  that’s a guess and I don’t think I care enough to check further).

Unlike with Anger Management network FX, there has never been a single good TBS comedy so it’s not as if I was expecting otherwise.  I just wish the rest of America would catch up with good taste, and yes, I’m being judgmental.  People out there can watch and enjoy this if they want, but that doesn’t mean it’s not bad.  There’s plenty of solid material out there to be written about guys and friends and friends who are guys, but it would be nice if someone thinks about it a little bit before putting pen to paper (fingers to keyboard?).

Will I watch it again?  Not unless those endless TNT commercials for the show put some sort of hypnotic message in my head which forces me to.

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