October 18, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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Disclaimer:  Network pilots now in circulation are not necessarily in the form that will air in the Fall.  Pilots are often reedited and rescored, and in some cases even recast or reshot.  So these critiques shouldn’t be taken as full reviews, but rather as a guide to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.
MAN UP –  Tuesday 8:30PM on ABC:  Change the Channel.

There are plenty of pilots still to be seen, but the early frontrunner for most cringe-inducing hour of the new network TV season is Tuesday 8-9PM on ABC.   Following the lame Last Man Standing, the network is giving us MAN UP, which seems to have been chosen strictly to make the Tim Allen show look less lousy than it is. 

The shows are undeniably compatible–they share the same general world-view–but this concept of men desperately trying to preserve their masculinity in a universe dominated by women is ramped up considerably in Man Up.  Here the women are basically emasculating bitches and the men are neutered dullards.  (Sample dialogue between two of the men, when one is bewailing a lost love:  “I need to get some closure!”  “You need to close your vagina!”)  Presumably the show is trying to imitate the “bro” comedies of Judd Apatow and his crew, but it completely misses the good-natured, smart tone of Apatow’s work.  Instead, it’s like someone watched FOX’s cancelled Traffic Lights and decided it just wasn’t stupid or ugly enough.

The writer inflicting this on us is Chris Moynihan, who also plays the lovelorn Craig (he previously both wrote and starred in NBC’s flop 100 Questions), and his pals are Mather Zickel as Will, the one who’s married with kids (you know what Ty Burrell does so brilliantly in Modern Family?  Well, this character is the terrible version of that), and the always-over-the-top Dan Fogler as Kenny, the bitterly divorced guy.  Kenny’s spiteful ex-wife is Brenda (Amanda Detmer, such a good comic actress it’s actually painful to watch her here), who naturally is the best friend of Will’s wife Theresa (Teri Polo, doing a more contemptuous version of her role in the Fockers series), so she can constantly come into contact with Kenny.

Man Up is the kind of comedy where, if one character assures another that a third person can be trusted with a knife, you can count the seconds until there’s a scream of pain on the soundtrack:  call it “Insta-Yuck”.  Despite the relatively modern single-camera shooting style (handled decently enough by Beth McCarthy-Miller, a veteran of 30 Rock), there’s not a moment that doesn’t feel predictable and flat.  It’s not the actors’ fault (well, it is Moynihan’s fault, but not particularly as an actor)–they perform energetically and put across their tired zingers with skill.  It’s simply that no cast could have saved this material.

The crushing badness of Man Up doesn’t necessarily mean it’s doomed in the ratings, because the Tim Allen fans watching Last Man Standing will give it a lead-in (Mitch Metcalf’s analysis has it tied for 3rd place in the timeslot).  Once people have seen it, though, it’d be nice to think that its numbers will head nowhere but down.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."