TV Review - We Are Men Vs. Mom

CBS premiered several new comedies this fall 2013. One of which stands as the second new show of the season to be cancelled and the first comedy to get the axe. The other might have a longer, if not brighter future. The juxtaposition of the two shows, however, opens a debate or perhaps a personal preference for me and possibly America. On Monday, September 23rd, CBS debuted the latest Chuck Lorre sitcom Mom starring Anna Faris and Allison Janney. The following Monday, September 30th, CBS rolled out the very first episode of We Are Men, a show about four random guys bonding over the fact that they've all gotten out of bad relationships. After the second episode, due to low ratings, CBS cancelled We Are Men.

Yes, Breaking Bad just won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series, and, yes, this year much ado was made about Robin Williams and Michael J. Fox returning to television with their own self-centered programs. Yet, TV, as a medium, is increasingly becoming a female-centered outlet. Women are more successful on television and stories focusing on women, be it network or cable, are more prominent on the small screen than the box office.

Of course, there are many things that contributed to the down fall of We Are Men. The foursome that lead the show include Tony Shalhoub, Jerry O'Connell and Kal Penn, but the premiere seems to focus on Christopher Nicholas Smith who played Carter, the handsome younger guy whose story bookends the pilot episode and who also seems to narrate the show. Yet, Smith isn't a star like Robin Williams and Michael J. Fox. He isn't going to draw crowds on his own.

The pilot episode does have a twist ending that might have worked better if it had come a few episodes later. It's an ending that hinges on the belief that the four men have truly bonded and I simply didn't buy it. As such, it didn't have the kind of emotional impact as the ending of I Love You, Man (2009). Like that movie, this series is contingent on the audience accepting the bromance, and so early, this show hasn't yet earned it.

That being said, this show isn't funny. I feel like the show has its characters do comedic things, but I felt like there weren't any real jokes. If there were, they were the lamest and hackneyed jokes ever, as to just blow by me. Perhaps, I was just turned off by the air of misogyny that We Are Men possesses.

Given the TV climate that's more female-friendly, misogyny, even in a slight way, is and should be rejected, as We Are Men was. In the past few years, more and more prime-time dramas have starred women, including Bones, Castle, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Scandal, Once Upon a Time, The Good Wife and Homeland. Nevertheless, some of my favorite prime-time comedies have been led by ladies like Nurse Jackie, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, The Middle and Web Therapy. I've also been attracted to talk shows like ABC's The View and CBS' The Talk because of their casting of female comics, such as Aisha Tyler and Sheryl Underwood. Independent comediennes like Kathy Griffin or Margaret Cho have also caught my eye.

Adding to the mix is Anna Faris whose last TV gig was HBO's Entourage but who's probably best known for her role in Scary Movie (2000). She stars opposite Allison Janney who is probably best known for her role on The West Wing but has had a long career since in both various TV shows and films. CBS or rather Chuck Lorre put them together in the new series Mom.

I certainly prefer this series over We Are Men, even when the show bashes the male gender. That to me isn't as offensive or egregious as when We Are Men bashes women. Maybe the writers are simply better in putting out punchlines or setting up and implementing gags. Mom has simple pratfalls like Nate Corddry who plays Gabriel, the on-again, off-again, love interest for Faris who is literally knocked on his butt or smacked in the face. They're the kind of pratfalls that have been done since the time of Charlie Chaplin, but somehow the actors here make it work.

I can't explain it any other way than by saying I like the two female leads. They're funnier. They're smarter. They're generally more delightful. Even though I've only seen three episodes of Mom, the relationship and rapport between Faris and Janney feels stronger and more of a bond than anything we get in We Are Men. It's not simply because their characters are mother and daughter, but the writing and acting even in the pilot sells that bond so much better.

Anna Faris plays Christy, a waitress at an upscale restaurant who has a teenage daughter. She's secretly dating her boss Gabriel. She also is a recovering alcoholic. She has a very tense relationship with her mom Bonnie, played by Allison Janney. Bonnie is also a recovering alcoholic who may also have other addictions. Christy and Bonnie attend AA meetings together. What Christy fears is that her teen girl Violet might be on the road to repeating her history.

The show is obviously made by Chuck Lorre, the same man behind other similar sitcoms like Two and a Half Men, and in a weird way Mom is a mirror image or a bit of a clone of Two and a Half Men, except it's all women. Lorre is ruling today's traditional, multi-camera, sitcom format. I'm not a fan, but again the women on the screen just enchant me.

We Are Men
One Star out of Five. 
Rated TV-14.
Running Time: 30 mins.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14-DL.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Mondays at 9:30PM on CBS.


Popular Posts