February 28, 2013



It won’t surprise anyone if last night’s episode of GUYS WITH KIDS turns out to be not just its season finale but its farewell to the airwaves.  The show has struggled with ratings in the low 1s all season, and although that’s not particularly worse than its hour-mate Whitney, when it comes to Guys, NBC executives don’t seem to be in the throes of passion, or blackmail, or whatever it is that compels them to keep Whitney Cummings on the air.  Guys is/was intended as part of NBC’s effort to “broaden the audience” for its shows, which is network-speak for dumbing things down, and its multi-camera style and premise were as basic as its title:  three old friends who miraculously live in the same NY apartment building cope with the women and young children in their lives.  Nick (Zach Cregger) and Emily (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) had a conventional two-parent family, Gary (Anthony Anderson) was a stay-at-home dad while wife Marny (Tempestt Bledsoe) worked (although late in the season Gary started his own business too), and Chris (Jesse Bradford) was technically divorced from Sheila (Erinn Hayes), although before long she was living in the same apartment building and was present as much as either of the spouses.

Guys has had its strong points, chief among them its likable, accomplished cast.  Anderson wrung about as many laughs from cliches of harried fatherhood (there was an entire episode where some of the kids were locked in a bathroom) as any mere human could, Sigler turned out to have an endearingly silly streak, and there was enough genuine spark in the endlessly insulting hate-banter between Cregger and Hayes that in a different kind of show, their characters would have been the subject of will-they-or-won’t-they shipper speculation.

For all that, creators Jimmy Fallon, Charlie Grandy and Amy Ozols never seemed to have any interest in making Guys more than instantly forgettable, like one of those original half-hours that shows up on basic cable, runs for a couple of months, then vanishes.  The finale, written by story editor Matt Lawton and directed by Betsy Thomas, was no exception.  A hugely contrived storyline had Matny’s irresponsible sister (played, in a bit of stunt casting, by Keshia Knight Pulliam) coming to town just as Gary needed an assistant for his “wrapkin” business, and Marny forcing him to hire her; naturally despite all Gary’s disdain and Marny’s doubts, the sister ended up saving the day and putting his business on the fast track.  That plot was never going to be anything but groan-inducing, but the other main story could have had possibilities, as Sheila and Chris decided to have a second child, supposedly just to give their son a sibling but possibly because Sheila wanted to get back together with Chris.  This possibility caused Nick to throw a party to remind Chris of how awful a wife Sheila had been and set Chris up with an old girlfriend.  Again, in a different, more intelligent and nuanced kind of show, there could have been some interesting, ambivalent feelings here.  Instead, Nick’s “party” was–literally–cardboard (cut-outs of Sheila with a devil face drawn on), Sheila didn’t show up until the last minute of the episode, and it all led to a weak cliffhanger that may now very possibly never be resolved.

A full discussion of NBC’s sitcom woes is for another day, but suffice it to say that the network has a stack of half-hours with ratings that would earn instant cancellation on any other network, but can’t be completely ruled out for renewal in NBC’s current state.  Guys With Kids won’t particularly be missed if it’s one of the condemned, but it’s not worse than, say, 1600 Penn, The New Normal or Whitney.  At this point, the most valuable metric for guessing which (if any) will survive may be a dartboard.

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."