In the US: Saturdays, 10/9c, TBS
Straight men are, in general, catered for very well by US television. Or so you'd think. Not all straight men are created equal, however. There are, in fact, two genres that really don't seem to want us at all: romcoms and musicals. Glee, Nashville and Smash laugh in our faces, while The Mindy Project is still trying to work out what straight men want.
It's discrimination, I tell you.
Never fear, though: TBS is here to balance the scales. Now, despite its catchline of "Very funny", TNT's sister channel should really have been promoting itself as "Cack - for men". Glory Daze and Men At Work, I'm particularly looking at you here. But in an effort to stop making appalling television, as well as picking up Cougar Town now that ABC had dropped it, TBS has come up with Wedding Band, a romcom musical for men.
A cross between The Wedding Singer and The Hangover, it sees perennial bachelor Brian Austin Green (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) as the lead singer of a wedding band that includes his married-with-kids Ed Helms-alike best friend, his Jack Black-alike slobby brother and the quasi-hip Harold Perrineau from Lost. The band has been doing weddings for years, but they're ready to go big, possibly with the help of big-time wedding planner Melora Hardin and her novice associate - and possible romantic interest for Green - Jenny Wade.
And while it's very male-oriented, features fight scenes and has quite a broad sense of humour, it's surprisingly funny, nuanced and unmisogynistic. And you get about three or four classic rock and pop cover versions per episode: a romcom musical for men.
Oh, and in case you don't read the tabloids, Brian Austin Green is married to Megan Fox in real life. Which is probably why she's in the next episode in a leather outfit. Here's a trailer:
Delivering equal parts comedy and heart, Wedding Band centers on the bromance between four likable but occasionally reckless young men who can't figure out their own lives. One thing they have figured out, however, is that weddings are the wildest parties in town. After all, the groupies are bridesmaids, the drinks are free and the best part, there's a paycheck waiting at the end of the night. And it's not just weddings. Mother of the Bride also brings the party to bar mitzvahs, high-school reunions and even bachelorette parties.
On lead vocals and playing the crowd is perennial bachelor Tommy (Brian Austin Green). Shredding it on guitar is his best friend and married father of two, Eddie (Peter Cambor). Behind Eddie on drums -and everything else in life - is his rock-obsessed brother, Barry (Derek Miller), whose mission is to bring the arena-rock spectacle to black-tie events. New to the band is Stevie (Harold Perrineau), a bassist and session musician who's jammed with all the big rock giants, "from AC to ZZ," but he's never been an official member of a band until Mother of the Bride.Together these four guys provide the soundtracks to other people's lives. But now the band is ready to take things to the next level. That means attracting the attention of top event Roxie Rutherford (Melora Hardin), and her novice associate Rachel (Jenny Wade) and keeping Eddie out of trouble with his wife, Ingrid (Kathryn Fiore).
Is it any good?
While it's not the funniest comedy you're ever going to see, compared with this year's Malibu Country, Animal Practice, Ben and Kate, The Neighbors, Partners, Guys With Kids and The New Normal, we're up in Frasier territory with Wedding Band.
Initially, the signs are disheartening, with the core characters pretty much stereotypes: the lead singer bad boy who's eternally single, the family guy whose wife doesn't approve of his hobby, the slobby guy who refuses to grow up and the black guy who's hipper than all the others. The female characters aren't that much better: the disapproving wife, the young sensitive woman looking for love, the predatory female boss.
The first clue you get that things are more sophisticated than you think is when Perrineau is being talked through the importance of being in a wedding band. As well as a greater joy for life and kindness than you'd expect, with "ensuring that everyone has a great time" rather than "screwing the bridesmaids" being the preferred mantra, when it comes round to appraising the women on offer at a wedding, things turn out a little differently, too: when Perrineau questions when they even need to make one particularly "big boned" woman happy, the rest of the band say yes, and tell him off for being insensitive and unkind, before deconstructing society's body image rules.
Similarly, although things don't depart too far from the initial stereotypes, all the characters are shown to have greater depth than might have been suspected. Disapproving wife actually quite likes her husband being a member of the band; Brian Austin Green's character has a lost-love and does his best to help her get over her cold feet; Perrineau is a guitarist who's played with more or less every great band ever, but only as a session player; and so on. While the other women could do with some development, this isn't a gender-war piece and there are no signs of men being commitment-phobic as an assumed default.
Sure, it's still a comedy in which champagne corks burst women's breast implants, but it's more subtle than you might think, the characters are likeable, and even the singing is tolerable.
So even if you think romcoms and musicals aren't for you, at least give Wedding Band a try. It's feelgood fun and a whole lot better than most other comedies on TV right now. Plus it'll have Megan Fox in leather next week.
- November 26, 2012: Third-episode verdict: Wedding Band (TBS/5*)
A review of the first three episodes of Wedding Band