Men are “the new women,” muses one CEO-type in ABC’s “Big Shots,” a peculiar reverse-stab at “Sex in the City,” only from the perspective of a golf quartet consisting of four Mr. Bigs. Aside from inordinate fondness for the word “penis” and a transgender-hooker subplot (paralleling “Dirty Sexy Money’s” tranny bit), Jon Harmon Feldman’s naughty script doesn’t develop much chemistry among the guys, while filtering each through relationships with women as opposed to, say, high finance. Whimsical in tone, the series blends comedy with drama but exhibits few attributes worthy of its getting ABC’s best new-series slot, post-“Grey’s Anatomy.”
Being professionally successful, of course, doesn’t ensure personal lives will be any less of a shambles; in fact, it only exacerbates certain problems — the trouble with boys magnified, as it were, by the size and quality of their toys.
So married Karl (Joshua Malina) is CEO of a pharmaceutical conglomerate but carrying on a torrid affair with Marla (Jessica Collins), who’s beginning to want more from him; divorced Duncan (Dylan McDermott) runs a cosmetics firm but still has the hots for his ex (Paige Turco) and a strained relationship with his grown daughter (Peyton List); Brody (Christopher Titus) is a horny but sedately married crisis manager, whose unseen wife appears destined to become a version of “Cheers’” Vera; and James (Michael Vartan) is climbing the corporate ladder, though there are hints of trouble at home.
Given that women will likely be the primary audience for the show, the series seeks to provide an illicit glimpse into the inner lives of these powerful execs, but the pilot spends most of its time preoccupied with matters below the belt, as if this were a teen sex comedy with snazzier cars. In a broader sense, the series also suffers from the sameness that characterizes ABC’s recent batch of ensemble dramas, merging into one big “Brothers & Sisters and Dirty Sexy Private Big Shots in Trees Road.”
Based on the premiere, perhaps the most formidable problem is simply that it’s difficult to picture this particular group of guys hanging out together, owing more to thin material than a lack of chemistry. McDermott initially has the meatiest character, with Titus (who starred in his own Fox comedy) and “West Wing” alum Malina mostly providing comic relief. “Alias’” Vartan fares worst due mainly to the hackneyed nature of his story line, though the set-up opens more fruitful doors for the future.
ABC did manage to salvage “Brothers & Sisters” after a rocky start, so there’s potential hope for “Big Shots,” even if CBS has ratcheted up the Thursday competition by returning “Without a Trace” to that night. Still, if it’s really true that these men are “the new women,” so far, I frankly liked the old ones better.