The first two questions people typically ask when they find out about a new comedy are "Who's in it?" and "What's it about?" CBS' newest multi-camera laugh-track showcase, How to Be a Gentleman, answers those questions with responses that deserve both applause and boos. The cast is fantastic: David Hornsby (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia), David Foley (NewsRadio), Mary Lynn Rajskub (Mr. Show), and Rhys Darby (Flight of the Conchords). The premise is not: A prudish author teams up with his meatball friend to learn how to be a man. It's one of those concepts that was really hot in the 1960s, yet somehow manages to resurface every once in a while. Or in the case of this season, in every third new comedy; wussy men are, like, totally in, you guys.
Based on last night's pilot, How to Be a Gentleman is one of the worst new comedies of the fall season. That's saying a lot, considering the crop includes Tim Allen's ridiculously outdated Last Man Standing and Whitney Cummings' stale and muzzled Whitney. My biggest complaint is that How to Be a Gentleman simply isn't funny; when Hornsby's character Andrew explained, via voice-over, that "a true gentleman is never at a loss for words when he hears bad news," even my cats knew the next gag would be Andrew stammering nonsense. When Andrew promised that he'd just have one shot of booze, I prayed that the show wouldn't immediately cut to him trashed. But it did. And it hurt. And all that hurt added up to one painful viewing experience.
It's a shame, too, because I've been dying to see Rhys Darby in something—anything—new. Ever since he burst onto the scene as the idiotic manager in Flight of the Conchords, he's been ripe for a breakthrough. How to Be a Gentleman will not be that breakthrough, though Darby did provide the pilot's highlight by pretending to be Superman in the background of a video chat. (Side note: Video chat sequences, along with prissy men and the word "vagina," seem to be a big trend in television this year.) I haven't even mentioned Kevin Dillon as the "dude" yet, because I'm already trying to forget him. When oh when will science grant us the ability to scrub our brains of unfortunate television?
How to Be a Gentleman is off to a horrible start with no signs of a promising future ahead. The first episode had a 3.6 rating on TV.com as of press time, one of the lowest I've seen, so I don't think I'm alone in believing the show won't survive long. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm looking forward to Rules of Engagement taking over its time slot.
Single, solitary note:
– It was weird to see David Foley in the boss chair when Andrew showed up to meet with him. It's the exact same thing NewsRadio used to do, except Foley was the employee. Now he's playing essentially the same character as Stephen Root's Jimmy James. It's almost an identical set, too.
What'd you think of the premiere? Do you think How to Be a Gent's talented cast has any chance of turning the show around?