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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2011-2012 season, now in its sixth year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
MAN UP! (ABC)
(written by Christopher Moynihan; directed by Beth McCathy-Miller; TRT: 21:52)
The network's description: "Three modern men try to get in touch with their inner tough guys and redefine what it means to be a "real man" in this funny and relatable comedy. Will's grandfather fought in WWII. Will's father fought in Vietnam. Will plays Call of Duty on his PS3 and drinks non-dairy hazelnut creamer. So what happened to all the real men? They're still here -- they just smell like pomegranate body wash now. Meet Will (Mather Zickel). His evolved, sensitive nature is why his awesome wife, Theresa (Teri Polo), married him. But Will and his friends find themselves wondering -- in a world of Axe ads and manscaping -- what does it really mean to be a guy anymore? Will is more interested in finding the perfect gift for his son Nathan's (Jake Johnson) 13th birthday than in doing his job selling insurance; sensitive soul Craig (Christopher Moynihan) still pines for his college ex, Lisa; and Kenny (Dan Fogler) clamps down on his anger and asks himself, "What would Tobey Maguire do?," when his ex, Brenda (Amanda Detmer), starts seeing a guy (Henry Simmons) who is everything he's not and much better looking.
After Craig crashes Lisa's wedding to try to win her back, they are all faced with an opportunity to Man Up and be like their forefathers. The show stars Christopher Moynihan as Craig, Mather Zickel ("The Cape") as Will, Dan Fogler ("Balls of Fury") as Kenny, Teri Polo ("Meet the Fockers") as Theresa, Amanda Detmer ("What About Brian") as Brenda and Henry Simmons ("Shark") as Grant. "Man Up" comes from writer/executive producer/actor Christopher Moynihan ("100 Questions"), executive producer Victor Fresco ("Better off Ted"), Ron West and Kelly Kulchak of Tagline Television (Psych) and director Beth McCarthy-Miller ("SNL," "30 Rock"). "Man Up" is produced by ABC Studios."
What did they leave out? "Man Up's" lead-in, "Last Man Standing," was also originally titled "Man Up."
The plot in a nutshell: You won't find a picture of thirtysomething best friends Will (Mather Zickel), Kenny (Dan Fogler) and Craig (Christopher Moynihan) under "man" in the dictionary. Married insurance salesman Will plays video games and fusses over non-dairy creamer, pharmaceutical rep Kenny is bitterly divorced and perennially single Craig is an emotional basket case. Their manliness - or lack thereof - is of particular interest to Will as his son Nathan (Jake Johnson) is about to turn 13 and he wants to give him the perfect gift to commemorate his transition from boy to man.
Unfortunately, as his wife Theresa (Teri Polo), Kenny's sister, points out: he's not much of an authority on the subject. While Will's father and his father before him were war heroes, his only battlefield experience is via video games. His buddies not surprisingly are just as clueless: Kenny's more concerned that his ex Brenda (Amanda Detmer) will be at Nathan's party, and she's brought at date, Grant (a surprisingly over-the-top Henry Simmons); while Craig is newly obsessed with an old girlfriend Lisa (Chryssie Whitehead) who said she had to see him before she got married. Ultimately though, through a confluence of events caused by both Kenny and Craig, he'll get to give Nathan the best gift of all: watching his dad be a man. Sort of.
What works: Fogler and Detmer's characters' love-hate relationship provides some must needed sparks as for the most part...
What doesn't: ...it's just boilerplate thirtysomething white men foibles. Will can play all the video games he wants as a consolation prize for Theresa turning down sex! Kenny gets upset that Craig tries to grow a beard upon Lisa's suggestion, because it's his thing! Craig and Kenny suggest going to lunch at 10:15! Heavyset Kenny unsuccessfully tries to play basketball against Brenda's svelte new boyfriend! ("We'll go with shirts and skins - that way there's no confusion about who's on what team," he quips after Grant takes off his shirt.) There's a running gag involving WWTMD - What Would Tobey Maguire Do?, since Kenny thinks he's the coolest person ever! It's all just as vanilla as it sounds. Throw in some limp plot twists - Craig is going to try and stop Lisa's wedding? if only Nostradamus could have left us that prediction - and you have...
The bottom line: ...probably the weakest of next season's single-camera comedies.