The idea underlying “We Are Men” — set in a Hollywood-adjacent apartment complex that serves as a way-station for newly divorced dudes — turns out to be considerably more fertile than the execution. One of two single-camera comedies from CBS this season, the show’s below-the-belt proclivities certainly don’t represent a jarring departure from Monday-night anchor “2 Broke Girls,” but these Four Broken-Up Guys race through a pilot that offers little incentive for an extended stay.
Carter (Chris Smith) is the newbie of the group, met essentially via a reverse “The Graduate.” In the opening scene, he’s conspicuously left at the altar by a woman whose old boyfriend bursts into the festivities. Soon he’s drowning his sorrows at the Olympia Apartments (Oakwood, anyone?), where he’s quickly taken in by Frank (Tony Shalhoub), a veteran of four divorces, with a penchant for Asian women; Stuart (Jerry O’Connell), a more natural ladies man and ob-gyn, who made the mistake of splitting from a divorce attorney and is desperately trying to hide his assets; and Gil (Kal Penn), who, given how thinly drawn his character is, should really go find Kumar and head to the nearest White Castle.
Wasting little time, the premiere (written and directed by Rob Greenberg) has Frank prodding Carter to begin dating again (“Dare to be great,” he tells him), and the quartet engages in the kind of silly frat-boy hijinks that might potentially help shake Carter out of his funk. He’s also presented a chance to potentially reunite with his ex, but they didn’t title this, “We Are Men and One Neutered Married Guy,” did they?
Shalhoub gets the most mileage out of the material (Frank even has an attractive grown daughter), while Smith’s Carter is even blander than perhaps intended. And while there really is a show to be found in exploring fickle matrimony as a stage of life — or even coming at it from the disparate ages of the central quartet — it’s hard to escape a feeling that “We Are Men” is really just TNT’s short-lived “Men of a Certain Age” without the ambition, and maybe with a lobotomy.
It’s easy to understand why CBS sought to establish a comedy beachhead Thursdays by moving “The Big Bang Theory” and then “Two and a Half Men” to capitalize on a night that promises a pile of movie-marketing money, but the network has clearly sacrificed strength on Mondays in the process. As a result, the Eye network could use an infusion of fresh blood.
Despite the proud nature of its title, and faced with that rather exacting challenge, these “Men” appear to lack the right stuff.