Monday, September 12, 2011

NPR: Washed-Up Men - The Stars Of Fall Sitcom Lineup

NPR takes a look at the new crop of "men" as depicted in this fall's new sitcoms (see below) - where writers took Hanna Rosin's Atlantic story, "The End of Men," into their brainstorming sessions. Pathetic.

Rosin has a new article in the Atlantic, Primetime's Looming Male Identity Crisis, in which she assesses this fall's sitcoms about men who are unemployed, underemployed, or in desperate need of a makeover.

This tends to be how she views men between 18-35 (see "The End of Men") - as slackers who need a makeover (and a wife to make them responsible, which comes with parenthood). She's not very in-touch with reality - it's not 1956 anymore.

With this fall network season, I will reach the pinnacle of my cultural influence. I know this because it was reported in a June Wall Street Journal in a story titled "A Generation of TV Wimps," which was sent to me by a friend. A CBS executive is quoted as saying that 20 different producers came to meetings with my recent Atlantic story, "The End of Men," in hand, claiming it described a new gender dynamic that must be set to a laugh track. I was not invited to such meetings and no doubt my name was not invoked, but in my own quiet way, I bragged.

A half-dozen pilots were made by the three major networks, and they will all be released in September. Some of their names are interchangeable--Man Up!Last Man StandingHow to Be a Gentleman. They all feature men who are unemployed or underemployed, love to play video games, and are desperately in need of a makeover. "Life is a big jerk and punches you in the face over and over again," complains Bert Lansing, a lughead personal trainer in ABC's How to Be a Gentleman, played by Kevin Dillon from Entourage. Now that I have actually seen them, my secret pride is definitely tinged with a little terror. I worry that maybe I have helped to unleash a race of genetic mutants onto the population--diseased and dysfunctional men ranging from placid to sad to furious, fumbling around in the office, the supermarket, or the bedroom while the rest of America laughs.

My original story was a mix of sociology, statistics, and reporting, so I never considered its sitcom potential. In fact, I must confess, I thought the sitcom was mostly dead. But apparently all the old genre needed was a new kitchen-sink configuration to breathe new life into it. In this generation of sitcoms, the wives are working double shifts or getting promotions while the men sit around confused. The potential for fresh comic tableaux is endless. Husband lies to wife about how much hockey he watches during the day while he's supposed to be taking care of the baby. Sister does homework while brother feeds orange juice to the dog. Wife sends husband to buy cheese and he comes home with a giant orange wheel. Wife sends husband to buy yogurt and he is humiliated. A man! Buying low-fat yogurt! The indignities! "In a world when women are succeeding and sometimes surpassing the careers of their husbands, that produces conflict and conflict produces comedy," Dana Walden, chairman of 20th Century Fox Television, which made ABC's Last Man Standing, explained to The Wall Street Journal. (For an analysis of the corresponding wave of young powerful lady shows, see this story in Slate.)

NPR has a story up today (audio will not be available until later this evening) on this same topic - I'll offer up the link, but you're on your own to go listen (or read).
Audio for this story from Talk of the Nation will be available at approx. 6:00 p.m. ET
    Read Hanna Rosin'sAtlantic Piece,"Primetime's Looming Male Identity Crisis"
    September 12, 2011
    A slate of 2011 shows feature men who are unemployed or underemployed and spend lots of time playing video games. These characters aren't necessarily new, but the twist this season is that they are juxtaposed with women who are running laps around them.

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