October 26, 2011


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Written by: Mitch Salem
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A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and production of episodes for the regular season:  a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover in the off-season) give plenty of notes, both helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads.  The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting and even story.  Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular episodes of this year’s new series as well.
Previously… on MAN UP!:  Kenny, Craig and Will (Dan Fogler, series creator Chris Moynihan and Mather Zickel) have been friends since high school:  Craig is the single one, Will has wife Theresa (Teri Polo) and 2 kids, and Kenny used to be married to Theresa’s sister Bridgette (Amanda Detmer).  The 3 guys work together, play videogames together, get together on the weekends, and mostly hide from and reluctantly do the bidding of the women in their lives.  Things get stirred up, though, when Bridgette starts dating Grant (Henry Simmons), who being tall, athletic, good-looking and both macho and even-tempered, is the polar opposite of Kenny.  This makes Kenny freak out…

Episode 2:  …which he’s still doing when the regular season begins.  Man Up! the series is a bit less strident than the pilot–the women characters mostly interact with each other instead of humiliating the men–but still overwhelmingly lame.  

As in the pilot, the main vehicle for the comedy is slobby, overweight, perpetually overwrought Kenny, whose manhood is threatened by Grant.  He’s outraged to find out that Craig and Will actually like Grant, and after Kenny is forced to endure a weekend group dinner with Grant invited too, his friends convince him that Grant isn’t going anywhere.  Their brainstorm:  Kenny should bond with Grant over Star Wars, a sacred talisman to Kenny that Grant has never seen.  Purported hilarity ensues as Grant fails to appreciate the Force and Kenny’s prized Betamax rental copy is stuck in his ancient VTR.

In the B story, Bridgette and Theresa bicker over the fact that Bridgette has rewarded Theresa’s daughter for a good grade by letting her have a henna tramp-stamp tattoo.  The “high point” of this storyline is a fantasy sequence in which Theresa imagines her child pole-dancing for dollar bills.

With its misogyny watered down, Man Up! is simply an unfunny comedy about a bunch of morons.  (And done on the cheap, too:  the studio didn’t want to pay for any actual Star Wars footage or sound, so even when the guys are supposed to be watching Kenny’s tape, we neither see nor hear anything from the movie.)  Fogler’s constant tantrums are quickly tiresome, Craig and Will are throwaways, and with the apparent aim of making Grant no threat at all, he’s so bland he’s basically neutered (it’s one thing never to have seen Star Wars, but are there any sentient Americans in their 30s not raised in a cave who don’t know Harrison Ford is in the movie?).  Meanwhile, Polo and Detmer, who deserve better, have nothing to do but snipe at the men and each other.

Man Up! has a compatible and seemingly strong lead-in in Last Man Standing (although we won’t know that for sure until FOX returns to its regular Tuesday schedule next week), so it may well be sticking around.  If it lasts, though, it won’t be because of merit.
Original Verdict:  Change the Channel
Pilot + 1:  6 Days Till Glee Returns


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."