So this is what men say and do when the women aren’t around, huh? Like the contents of the Starr Report, maybe we’d all be better off not knowing. In this lackluster new comedy from the once-productive stable of Witt-Thomas-Harris, the three divorced wimps who pass for males in the laughless pilot of “The Secret Lives of Men” whine bitterly about the opposite sex and ruminate on the joys of defecation while playing way too much golf. If these dudes aren’t perfect divorce material, nobody is.
Our thirtysomething heroes, who could clearly use a few courses in sensitivity training from the Alan Alda School of Intimacy, live in New York and confide in one another in lieu of feminine companionship. It’s not pretty. Picture the “Seinfeld” gang without a sense of humor.
Michael (the talented Peter Gallagher, who deserves better material than he’s fed in scribe Susan Harris’ opener) is an earnest nerd with a deep sense of morality. He’s just split from his wife, for whom he still pines, but before the premiere is through, she’ll cut out his heart and stomp all over it.
Next, there’s Phil (Brad Whitford), a hyper, overbearing, spiteful business manager for athletes who loves his kids but has pretty much shut himself off emotionally from the rest of the civilized world — women in particular. But, of course, there’s still a romantic inside struggling to get out, though tapping it could be hazardous to one’s health.
Lastly, there’s Andy (Mitch Rouse), a manufacturer of artificial fruits and vegetables (somebody has to) who holds a black belt in karate and the worst case of germphobia in all of Manhattan. Andy is the comic relief, a loose-limbed nutball who is a kick to watch. But even Rouse’s interaction inside this chemistry-challenged trio invariably falls flat despite director James Burrows’ best efforts to inject some life into things.
No, being a young divorced guy is no picnic in the ’90s. And that’s precisely why “Secret Lives of Men” doesn’t work. It ain’t funny. The characters eat cynicism for lunch at the neighborhood diner and sound as if they may be a setback away from going postal after their exes got the kids, the house and the money. Reality? Maybe. Comedy? Hardly.
The irony of the show’s title is that, unfortunately, being suddenly single and forced to bond with your unhappy buddies isn’t such a secret life anymore.
Tech credits are fine.