Thank goodness Kevin Dillon’s “Entourage” alter ego, the notoriously sensitive Johnny Drama, won’t have to endure the critical brickbats likely to be hurled at “How to Be a Gentleman.” It’s the oldest of formulas — mismatched buddies, even being promoted as “the oddest couple” — handled with the least amount of finesse, as a persnickety writer for an effete lifestyle magazine is reunited with the brute who gave him wedgies in high school, who’s now a personal trainer. Actually, about all one need say is, “You canceled ‘$#*! My Dad Says’ for this?”
What little inspiration the series can muster comes from Dave Foley as the editor of the aforementioned magazine, a print dinosaur who finds himself with a new boss his son’s age forcing him to go down-market. As he describes it, the mag’s new goal is to reach “men in their 30s who act like they’re 15.” Or in the case of “Gentleman” creator-star David Hornsby, write like it.
Ill-equipped for such boorishness as the author of a column that shares the program’s title, Andrew Carlson (Hornsby) is left at a loss by the shift in direction. Faster than you can say “contrived plot device,” though, he’s given a workout gift certificate by his cheerfully idiotic brother-in-law (Rhys Darby), who is so badgered by and beholden to his shrewish wife (“24’s” Mary Lynn Rajskub, terribly ill-served by the role) he appears utterly unconcerned by hints she might be cuckolding him.
The trainer turns out to be Bert (Dillon), who appraises Andrew’s starched shirt and immediately diagnoses the problem. “You know everything about being a gentleman, but nothing about being a man,” he grunts.
So Bert will try to unleash Andrew’s hidden id, which includes literally throwing him across the hall to ask out a fetching neighbor. Presumably, some of the writer’s meticulously cultivated style will rub off on Bert in reverse.
With most of the near-laughs coming from the supporting players, Hornsby (also a producer on “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) and Dillon are reduced to set-ups and groaning rim shots. Darby, meanwhile, plays a cluelessly upbeat character very similar to the New Zealander’s scene-stealing turn in “Flight of the Conchords,” which can be amusing, but never rises to that level in this milieu.
Positioned after “The Big Bang Theory,” “Gentleman” again promises to leave CBS’ sitcom hit a lonely island of Thursday mirth. As for what that might augur for the fate of this throwback series, a gentleman probably wouldn’t say.