September 29, 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 TV pilot reviews, but rather as a guide to the general style and content of the new shows coming your way.
HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN –  Thursday 8:30PM on CBS:  Potential DVR Alert
Considering how utterly contrived it is, HOW TO BE A GENTLEMAN is a surprisingly pleasant half-hour of television.  Whitney Cummings may have written her own star vehicle sitcom, but David Hornsby has done her one better by writing and starring in one that’s actually promising and funny.  (OK, Cummings also co-wrote 2 Broke Girls, so she has 2 new shows on the air, but that’s just mediocrity in bulk.)

“Based” on books of modern etiquette for men by Thomas Nelson, How To Be A Gentleman gives us Hornsby as Alan, writer of a magazine column on the subject.  Alan is gentlemanly to the point of snobbery, concerned as much with when it is and isn’t appropriate to wear a vest as with principles of courtesy.  His sister (Mary Lynn Rajskub) finds him hard to take, and as a birthday present she gives him a gift certificate to a personal training session at a local gym, knowing a gentleman can’t ignore any gift he’s received.  Well, guess what–it turns out the personal trainer is Bert (Kevin Dillon), who used to bully Alan in high school and is now a PG-13 version of Johnny Drama from Entourage.  Since, as it happens, Alan’s magazine has been taken over and he’s being forced to write a less polite version of his column, he agrees to be taken under Bert’s wing and taught about modern manhood.
You can certainly see the jokes coming in Gentleman, but the script is witty enough to keep them amusing.  Also, Pam Fryman directed the pilot, and she brings the same deft touch she supplies regularly to How I Met Your Mother, underplaying the obvious.  The cast also helps:  Hornsby knows that Alan is a bit of a cartoon, but he manages not to let him become a prig.  Dillon is so much in his own wheelhouse that his biggest worry should be typecasting.  It’s always great to see Rajskub (even if, on some level, she’ll always be Chloe from 24), and sharp talents like Rhys Darby (as Rajskub’s husband) and Dave Foley (as Alan’s boss) add to the ensemble.
It’s instructive to look at How To Be A Gentleman in comparison to some of the other men-being-men sitcoms we’re getting this season, like Man Up and Last Man Standing.  Here, the characters all have a little shading to them (they actually seem to like each other), and the script doesn’t just roll from one purported punchline to the next; these are people you might want to revisit the following week.
Gentleman has perhaps the most enviable timeslot of any new series this year:  not only does it follow the hit Big Bang Theory in its hour, but it’s a model of compatibility with its lead-in.  Mitch Metcalf’s Thursday projection has it in 2d place for the slot, just barely behind FOX’s X-Factor, and ahead of Charlie’s Angels and Parks & Recreation.  The show, frankly, isn’t in the same league as its NBC competition (although in fairness, Parks & Rec took a season to find its own footing).  But it’s not bad, and in network TV, “not bad” in the right timeslot is often more than good enough.

Read more about TV’s new shows at THE SKED PILOT REPORT.

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."