Review: Man Up! 1×1

Please don't

Man Up!

In the US: Tuesdays, 8.30/7.30c, ABC

There is a famous illustration of ‘the ascent of man’ (it’s invariably a man).

The Ascent of Man

Yet, on the US TV networks, we’re getting a series of shows about what it’s like to be modern man. And so far, on a quality scale, it’s been more like this:

Ascent of Man Up 2

(Yes, I know that’s rubbish, but I had five minutes to do it in).

We started with How To Be A Gentlemen, which partially satirised the whole concept and actually wasn’t that bad – but now should probably be called How To Be Cancelled. Then we got Last Man Standing, in which Tim Allen basically does Home Improvement again, so although he does rant a bit about modern man (and his lack of manly qualities), largely he learns his lesson and discovers there is something to this ‘sensitivity’ thing after all.

But now we have – and there’s still Work It to come so we haven’t quite reach the nadir of this trend – Man Up!, from the same network that’s given us Last Man Standing and will also give us, you guessed it, Work It: ABC. Written by and starring Christopher Moynihan (who you may recall also created NBC sitcom 100 Questions aka one of the answers in the TV trivia quiz “Name a network US TV show that lasted only six episodes because that’s all the network thought it was worth”), it’s about three slacker men who are having to deal with modern life, playing games and dealing with the fact they haven’t fought in any wars to prove their manhood. It’s the first honest-to-goodness piece of all out offensiveness, with horrible male characters, even more horrible female partners and a real sense of confusion about what it’s actually trying to say, beyond “Ooh, er, life’s tricky for men sometimes. Can we have sprinkles on our cereal? Is that okay?”

Its one redeeming feature: a guy who’s basically the Old Spice Guy, but isn’t the actual Old Spice Guy. Here’s a trailer – it has the very few funny bits in it:

Plot
Will Keen’s grandfather fought in WWII. Will’s father fought in Vietnam. Will plays Call of Duty on his PlayStation 3 and uses non-dairy hazelnut creamer. So what happened to all the real men? They’re still here — they just smell like pomegranate body wash now.

Meet Will (Mather Zickel). His evolved, sensitive nature is why his awesome wife Theresa (Teri Polo) married him. But Will and his friends find themselves wondering — in a world of body spray and manscaping — what does it really mean to be a guy anymore? Will is more interested in finding the perfect gift for his son Nathan’s (Jake Johnson) 13th birthday than in doing his job selling insurance, sensitive soul Craig (Christopher Moynihan) still pines for his college ex Lisa, and Kenny (Dan Fogler) clamps down on his anger and asks himself “What would Tobey Maguire do?” when his ex Brenda (Amanda Detmer) starts seeing a guy who is everything he’s not (Henry Simmons). And though it may not come naturally, each new day brings these lovable beta males another opportunity to Man Up and be like their forefathers.

In the vein of The Hangover, Man Up! is the virile new comedy from writer/producer/actor Christopher Moynihan (100 Questions), executive producer Victor Fresco (Better off Ted), and director Beth McCarthy-Miller (SNL, 30 Rock), that follows the struggles of three modern male archetypes as they search for their identities and try to prove that “real men” really can use hazelnut creamer.

Is it any good?
Bar about five laughs, this is a horrible, horrible programme. It’s mean-spirited, stupid, really seems to hate women and its central thesis – men don’t know how to be men any more – is entirely undermined by the fact that outside this central group of three friends, every other guy around seems to know how to be a ‘real man’. So what’s the problem.

We have Craig (Moynihan) who is too sensitive. As with New Girl‘s over-sensitive man, he’s not sensitive enough to know when he’s being stupid or indeed insensitive. He’s got an ex whom he pines after, so he ruins her wedding. That’s sensitive, huh?

Then we have Will, who while a little effeminate, has been inflicted with a really horrible wife (Teri Polo) – apparently, that’s what happens if you’re not man enough, because women don’t really want sensitivity in a relationship.

And lastly we have the standard loser couch potato Kenny, who’s a bearded slob who doesn’t try hard at anything but expects the world to bow before his feet. He’s paired with an ex, Brenda, who likes to jerk him around.

So far, so soulless.

But then we have Brenda’s new boyfriend, Grant, who is awesome. He’s the Old Spice Guy in disguise, or Captain Awesome off Chuck. One of these days we’ll have shows about guys like Grant, rather than these self-pitying misanthropic pieces about men who aren’t sure if they should gatecrash weddings in order to be a man. He is the show’s saving grace. But even he is not enough.

There are few laughs, you’ll probably feel your blood boil once or twice. Don’t bother. The only reason you might want to watch it is to prepare yourself for Work It, in which unemployed men find the only way they can get jobs in the new modern economy isn’t to retrain and get new skills, but to dress up as women. That should be… bracing, huh?