Review: Man With A Plan 1×1 (US: CBS)

The devolution of CBS man


In the US: Mondays, 8.30/7.30c, CBS

Evolution of TV man

See that? As you’re probably a trained scientist, you probably know that’s a chart of the evolution of US TV sitcom man. Unfortunately, TV time is non-linear, so despite the fact we’re normally constantly evolving, lots of US sitcoms see men devolving into lower forms of life. Sometimes within a single show or even episode of a show.

Now, CBS TV sitcom man usually sits fourth on the chart. He has a stick for doing manual work, you’ll notice, but the ability to articulate complicated ideas and to avoid defecating in his own pants, assuming he’s wearing any, is still a good few years of natural selection away.

Of course, sometimes we see even lower forms of life, such as Kevin James in Kevin Can Wait, who would be that bloke with the knife in the middle were it not that carrying it’s a bit too much like hard work.

But for all of five minutes in Man With A Plan, Matt Leblanc’s new sitcom in which he takes over the childcare when his wife (Liza Snyder) returns to work after 13 years looking after the kids, it seemed like we’d spotted a fully evolved CBS TV sitcom man – number five on the chart. He seemed smart, he seemed willing to understand complex ideas and make intelligent life choices, he accepted his wife as an equal, he organised parties. He was almost a credit to his sex.  

Unfortunately, rapid devolution soon occurred. Despite the fact that any sane parent – even a father! – knows that kids take a certain amount of maintenance, we’re back at the rudimentary tools stage for Leblanc as he’s demanding after just a day that his wife give up her job and that they resume their former roles. That makes sense, doesn’t it, men? You’d just quit, rather than ask your wife for some hints, while potentially wondering why you didn’t communicate better with your wife and get her parenting schedule off her before you took over, wouldn’t you?

By the end of the episode, of course, Leblanc has been outsmarted by his wife, knows he’s been outsmarted by his wife, but since he doesn’t have a fully formed cerebral cortex, can’t quite work out how. Still, at least he’s still smarter than his kids, whom he can just tranquillise by giving an iPad. Roll on Idiocracy, hey?

Compared to Kevin Can Wait and other less evolved sitcoms, Man With A Plan isn’t hugely toxic. Leblanc is amiable enough and can do most of this in his sleep, as you can tell from his recent sleep-walking performances on Top Gear. Snyder, who replaced The Office‘s Jenna Fischer after the pilot episode, dips into US TV sitcom woman’s never-ending jar of ‘long suffering’ to act as a foil to Leblanc’s ineptitude and occasional descents into neanderthalism. The kids could have been copied and pasted from any other family sitcom. There’s a little bit of interest at the kids school, with some parents and a teacher that aren’t totally cookie cutter. There’s even occasionally interesting lines, most of which are in the trailer below. 

But given this is the pilot so they’re going to be hitting us with their best stuff, I’d firmly recommend not watching any of Man With A Plan, if only because I very much doubt they have a plan.

Here’s that trailer I just mentioned – it still has Jenna Fischer in it, but everything’s otherwise the same.