Explores the tired question of whether modern times have produced an over-evolved generation of girly men. Alas, it'll take more than sociology to pump up this stale sitcom.
Remember “Traffic Light,” which was on Fox, like, last season? It was only the most recent kinda-funny casualty in the male-panic genre, in which suburban trios of guys expose their inner Peter Pans, mostly by playing videogames and whining. In that regard think of ABC’s “Man Up!” — paired with “Last Man Standing” in a thematically compatible if not particularly appealing block — as “The Hangover: Part TV,” exploring the tired question of whether modern times have produced an over-evolved generation of girly men. Alas, it’ll take more than sociology to pump up this stale sitcom.
Producer-writer Christopher Moynihan also co-stars as Craig, a member of the central group, who escape from their daily duties by playing a first-person shooter game as they chat to each other wearing headphones. The anchor is clearly Will (Mather Zickel), whose brother-in-law Kenny (Dan Fogler) is divorced and chafing at the fact his ex (Amanda Detmer) is dating the man of anybody’s dreams (“NYPD Blue’s” Henry Simmons).
As always, Fogler plays a tightly wound ball of rage, potentially dragging Will into his madcap capers. Then again, Will spends a lot of his time wondering about whether he can measure up to the manliness of his father’s generation. As such, Kenny’s antics — or in the premiere’s case, Craig potentially triggering an ass-kicking by pissed-off groomsman after crashing his ex-girlfriend’s wedding — only provides an opportunity to test what he’s truly made of.
Finally, there’s Will’s beautiful/patient/much-smarter-than-he-is wife Theresa (Teri Polo), who may (at the risk of over-thinking things) bear less of a resemblance to her onscreen brother, Fogler, than any sibling pairing in modern TV history.
Although some of the situations are relatable — Will’s anxiety about finding his 13-year-old son an appropriate gift, for one — and others goofily arbitrary (Kenny’s obsession with Tobey Maguire), it’s presented in such a familiar single-camera manner it would be easy to mistakenly assume “Man Up!” is a rerun of recent sitcoms past.
If there’s a surprise here, it’s Simmons’ comic chops as the perfect physical specimen who has replaced Kenny, though making that a regular element — as opposed to a gag for the pilot — offers a sense of how broad “Man Up!” is going to be.
As for the show’s future, that almost entirely depends on Tim Allen’s performance as its lead-in — once again leaving these men, oddly, at the mercy of an earlier generation. Then again, even if Allen’s show works, this companion half-hour is so thin there’s still a chance ABC will wind up tossing “Man” overboard.
Kenny Hayden - Dan Fogler
Craig Griffith - Christopher Moynihan
Theresa Hayden Keen - Teri Polo
Brenda Hayden - Amanda Detmer
Grant - Henry Simmons
Nathan Keen - Jake Johnson
Lucy Keen - Charlotte Labadie