If you want to see what homophobia looks like in the modern age, then you need look no further than Allen Gregory, the animated series that Fox debuted last night in the post-Simpsons slot that has been so hungry for a good show for so long. There, you’ll find every uninformed crazy-wing talking point: homosexuality as a choice, the homosexual as a predator who must convert straight men with their wiles, “gay parenting” as being a mere matter of wanting a child as a fashion accessory, something to show off without applying any real concern or parenting skills for. This goes beyond mere playing with stereotypes… and even then, I might forgive it if it actually drew humor from what it’s doing. I’ll forgive many things, perhaps too many things, for a good laugh. Gregory, about an upper-class gay couple’s 7 year-old obnoxious self-styled prodigy (voiced by Jonah Hill, who I’ve liked in a number of projects) who is forced to attend public school but is ill-equipped for dealing with commoners, resonates not a lick of true human emotion or understanding, and its comedy derived from the ridiculous antics of non-humans has no impact. Fox has already extended the order for this turkey, and they may be right; they seem to have had success with other heartless crap following The Simpsons… but I’m hoping that this will not repeat the trend.
From the title one might presume Man Up to be one of those “boy, the genders are different, and men are hilariously primitive” comedies, particularly since it’s slotted in right after Last Man Standing, which is exactly that. And to a limited extent, you’d be right.
But there’s a category of sitcom that it better fits, and that’s the “there’s a hit comedy movie, and we want something that seems just like that, only without paying to license that” file. Now, falling into this category does not mean that the show must be bad – Parker Lewis Can’t Lose certainly showed that (and ran quality rings around the genuine official Ferris Beuller series). However, it doesn’t mean it’s good, either. In this case, the hit films being echoed are the The Hangover series, not in their plot (well, at least not in the second episode, I missed the first), but in the structure of the group of male adult friends which includes on hairy, short, obnoxious, unaware loudmouth creep. I tire quickly of that aspect, tired of it in the Hangover movies, still tired of it here. And it tires me so much that it overrides anything else that is going on, even if that has hints of being worthwhile (in this case, the B story about the females in their lives, which while shallow showed some comedy talent at hand.)
One problem with the strategy of running the first two episodes of a new sitcom right in a row is that you can see the effect the pilot had, what changes the suits chose to make. In the case of Last Man Standing, the Tim Allen sitcom which debuted last night, they changed the look of the supporting character Kyle… so much so that when we saw him in the second episode, Mrs. Nat’s TV and I both thought that they had brought in a different actor. Apparently not, apparently they gave the same actor a different look and slightly different attitude, but we were both immediately disappointed because Kyle was what we liked best about the pilot.
Last Man Standing falls into a category of sitcoms – Traditional Masculine Man surrounded by women and/or New Age Man. Unsurprising, perhaps, as Allen’s hit Home Improvement seemed to fall into that category.. which is perhaps why I never gave that show a serious try, it’s not a category that I find attractive. I am neither that invested in the old form of masculinity nor that interested in laughing at it. However, within that category I will admit this one is relatively well done. Allen can deliver a line, he is supported by wife Nancy Travis who isn’t used to full effect in the opener, but shows she has the goods ready to use them; the girls playing their various daughters still need to prove themselves to me.
Allen plays a guy in charge of catalog content for a Bass Pro-like chain of stores, who finds himself having to adapt to being the Internet guy… which gives them an excuse to have him doing a vlog to really play the Basic Man role. They establish right off that he’s not dumb, nor uncaring, in ways that one can see as either humanizing the character or undercutting it; I’ll vote for the former in this case. (When the central character is really the central character, I want him to be human; it’s in cases like The Office where the show is really about people’s reactions to the central character where being nonhuman works.) (Oh, okay, that’s overstating. Black Adder is nonhuman, and that works. And they did humanize Michael Scott to an extent, by making him a good salesman… although to me, that helped not by humanizing, but by making it more comedically tragic, the Peter Principal writ large.)
And there are lots of little things to like. Hector Elizando playing the boss is a good example of this; Hector is just inherently likable (and I felt that even before he once said “hi” to little ol’ me!) and he brings good skills to his role; you can feel he must be the founder of the company, he’s the sort of quirky guy that would go off and start something with his own personailty, rather than the business-school polished type you’d want when you hired someone to take his place. And then there was that little moment when Allen interjects the phrase “…and beyond!” into the conversation, and that’s a cheap good thing because it pulled us out of the story for a second, made us hear that echo of Buzz Lightyear, perhaps spend a half second thinking about how unexpectedly right the casting of Mr. Lightyear was all those years ago, rather than glory in whatever joke was going on on screen. But still, a smile, it counts.
So, not quite my cuppa, but a respectably made cup nonetheless that I may watch some… and if it sounds like it might be your cuppa, definitely watch some as well!
This meatloaf effort is a collaboration between myself and wee Miss Allison. Ingredients:
- 1.25 pounds ground turkey
- 1 pound mechanically separated turkey
- leftover peas
- leftover mix vegetables
- a hearty chunk of leftover rice
- one packet of taco sauce (a comes-with-a-box-of-taco-shells style packet, not a little heres-some-taco-sauce-and-ketchups-from-the-drive-thru packet)
- raisins (4 little girl handfuls)
- leftover couscous, of coursecourse
Suggested as an ingredient was peanut butter, but I vetoed that.
Allison wanted it pie-shaped, but we found that there was too much for one pie plate, so we had to make two. And as long as we were making two, we made them unique. One had, as a topping, a shredded 3-cheese mixture, and the other, at Allison’s urging, used a powdered garlic mixture generally intended to make garlic bread with. (I think the garlic did more for the scent of that pie than for the taste, but it was detectable with the palate.)
Results: “If you like crispy edges, then meatloaf pies are the way to go” said the reviewer, Allison. Overall, fairly good, quite edible; not the absolute best of the meatloafs, but well into the good range.
Sometimes, what an actor has done before warps how you see a show.
Terra Nova, the new series about a cop who time travels into the past, stars Jason O’Mara. You might not recognize that name, but there’s a chance you’d recognize his face – he was the star of Life on Mars, where he played… a cop who time travels into the past. Watching him, my mind kept trying to fit this story into that context of that one. (And surely there will soon be a mashup of the two somewhere online.) Beyond that, the show was smoothly and clearly expensively made. It is a show with some real action moments, chase scenes with dinosaurs… yes, this is set much further in the past than Life was, as humans are leaving the Earth they destroyed for a much more ancient version, seeking it’s resources… but is that all? Things are not what they seem! Shocker! There is both some good action and some good little moments scenes of the cop with his family (at least in the first of the two episodes they aired opening night). It’s the bigger story that I’m less certain about – the real reasons for the travel, the conflicts and conspiracies for which There Is More To Be Told. I’ve already missed the third episode, and am not sure I’ll be watching more, in part because it’s in a bad time slot for us, and in part because… I have the wrong TV. The look of the show is clearly designed around a large flatscreen TV, and it can eb simply hard to see on our used-to-seem-large TV-ratio TV.
Another way casting can confuse the mind is seen in the new sitcom How to be a Gentleman, an Odd Couplesque show about a high-class genteel magazine columnist played by David Hornsby who finds himself learning lessons on integrating into a more lowbrow world from a trainer played by Kevin Dillion. Hornsby, who created the series, isn’t that well cast, but the real tricky casting is Dillon… because after having watched a lot of Entourage lately, this kept feeling like a show starring not Dillon but actor Johnny Drama, Dillon’s Entourage character.
But beyond that, it’s not a good show. Hornsby’s character (as well as his boss, David Foley, is reacting to a buyout of the magazine from folks who want to dumb the magazine down, but we neither get that great a sense of what the magazine was nor of who these people are who want the changes, so it all seems false. As false as the dinosaurs on Terra Nova (oh, didn’t I mention that? they seem a little fakey. But then I suspect that real dinosaurs seemed a little fakey.) It all seems like people pretending there were set-ups so they can just stand there delivering punch lines… and the punch lines ain’t that good.
Falling alseep at the keyboard; please forgive me if it’s not proofread.)