July 15, 2011


More articles by »
Written by: Mitch Salem
Tags: , , , , , ,


A MANN’S WORLD isn’t the usual run of busted pilot.  Produced by Warner Bros for consideration by NBC, it’s quite skillfully written and directed by Michael Patrick King, and it has a dramatic vision that sets it apart from mere failed genre efforts.  It also has a very strong performance in the lead by Don Johnson.  And yet, it’s not hard to understand why NBC didn’t put the show on the air.

The shorthand way to describe Mann’s World is that it’s Shampoo 35 years later.  The protagonist is again a (very heterosexual) Beverly Hills hairdresser, Allan Mann (Johnson), but at this point in his life, he has a successful salon of his own, a beautiful young (second) wife Lei (Kelly Hu) and a young child with her.  He also has an affectionate relationship with his ex-wife Julie (Ellen Barkin) and two adult children with her.  Mann seems to have everything going for him–except the fact that he’s 60 years old and the clock only turns one way.  
Much like Warren Beatty’s character George in Shampoo, Allan has a grand ambition:  to open a luxury spa alongside his salon.  And like George, he can’t raise the financing–this time, not because he’s young and not taken seriously, but because he’s past his prime.  Allan, who embodies a world of vanity and age-consciousness, is desperate to prove that’s not so, and as the pilot ends, he’s going to risk everything to go ahead with the plan on his own. 
This is fairly serious stuff, and Johnson really delivers in the lead.  He captures Allan’s arrogance and underlying terror, while easily bantering with his employees and family and deftly keeping his salon running smoothly.  King’s direction is smart and the show looks great.  So… what’s wrong?
For one thing, despite the strength of its main character and star, Mann’s World has a lot of flaws.  The other regulars–Allan’s wife, and especially the co-workers, are thin and obvoius.  The salon is run by Nicky (Mario Cantone), doing a toned-down version of his character in King’s Sex and the City; other employees are variously stoned, anorexic, or libertine, none in very interesting ways.  Storylines set in the salon, which probably would have been the main locale of the series, seem unpromising.  The only people who make an impression in the pilot besides Johnson are Barkin, who is marvelous as the ex-wife, and Michael Lerner as Allan’s business partner–but both of them are only guest stars.  
The show would also have been difficult to schedule and market, since it would likely appeal, for the most part, to an older female audience, which isn’t NBC’s chosen demographic.  By broadcast network standards, it’s pretty frank sexually, which probably ruled out CBS, not to mention that they’re not really in the soap business unless like Good Wife the project has a very strong procedural aspect.  So the show’s only hope after NBC passed was probably cable–and even there, a 60-year hairdresser lead isn’t going to be catnip to many networks.  (By now, it’s probably had its chance to be pitched elsewhere and failed to land a home–also, King, who was co-creator of the sitcom 2 Broke Girls, has taken on showrunner duties there since co-creator Whitney Cummings is busy with her own series.)
A Mann’s World could have been a watchable, even quality show for some network.  Sometimes that just isn’t enough.
The Sked’s Verdict:  Worth Another Look
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."