Television producers evidently have some very compelling mother issues. Why else would we have a sitcom trend involving put-upon men and the brassy women who dominate them? It was the concept centering NBC’s short-lived comedy “Conrad Bloom” last season, and this fall “Ladies Man” is joined by ABC’s “Odd Man Out.” Just once, couldn’t a woman be driven batty by a bunch of guys? Is that somehow illegal? No, apparently the only thing against the law is that any of these shows be funny. Last time I checked, being whipped and belittled incessantly had little real comic value.
“Ladies Man” is no exception, even though it is executive produced by Chris Thompson, who shepherded the inspired “Action” onto Fox this fall. Here is the show’s best joke (cover your eyes if you don’t want it spoiled): Since dad Jimmy Stiles (stage and screen vet Alfred Molina) is rooting for his pregnant wife to give birth to a son, one of his daughters mentions to the nurse at school, “Daddy likes little boys.” It’s only the pilot, and already Thompson (who penned the drab opening teleplay) is turning to pedophile humor.
The irony — and in fact, a reason to hope for improvement — is that the show features some good veteran talent in Sharon Lawrence, Betty White and Park Overall. They portray the wife, mother and ex, respectively, of Stiles. The ladies do their best to make this work, but the bug-eyed Molina is way off, despite direction in the pilot from the master himself, James Burrows.
Molina is a 78 RPM disc operating on a 45 RPM series. He’s obviously a talent, but the coarseness and awkwardness of the premise doesn’t allow for him to blend naturally into the ensemble. The gambit has the well-meaning Jimmy always saying the wrong thing, followed by “What’d I do?” This becomes a virtual mantra while he attempts to coexist in a household alongside his very pregnant wife, his mom, his two belligerent young daughters … and (all too often) his ex!
Have you ever seen a situation where a man was forced to regularly hang under the same roof with his wife and his ex? And his mother? And his mother-in-law (Dixie Carter, in a recurring role)? That might still be OK if “Ladies Man” were funny, but it’s roundly drab and uninspired despite the fine cast. Please, the title isn’t even punctuated correctly.
Tech credits, including camera work, are fine.