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TV Column
Posted at 06:27 PM ET, 10/19/2011

From ‘Man Up!’ to ‘Gentleman,’ man-coms struggle in the ratings


MAN UP! (Karen Neal - ABC)
While new comedies about chicks toughing it out in a man’s world continue to blossom and prosper, new comedies about men being emasculated in a woman’s world — well, not so much.

Most recently, ABC rolled out the second half of its Tuesday-night Man-Com Hour this week, unveiling the new “Man Up!” immediately after the second episode of the new Tim-Allen-stuck-in-a-house-full-of-women comedy, “Last Man Standing.”

“Man Up!” attracted a so-so 7.8 million viewers — losing about one-quarter of its “Last Man Standing” lead-in audience.

More worrisome, “Man Up” finished a distant third in its time slot among the 18- to 49-year-old viewers that ABC designs its prime-time entertainment programming to attract. In that age bracket, the new sitcom finished an also-ran to Fox’s “The X Factor” and CBS’s time-slot competitor, “NCIS.”

Meanwhile, CBS has pulled its new man-com, “How to Be a Gentleman,” from the lineup. The show performed poorly on Thursday nights following “Big Bang Theory” and then had been shipped off to The Night of Low Expectations — aka Saturday — where it did even worse.

“HtBaG” was about an etiquette columnist who’s told by the publication’s new owner that he needs to sex up his column; he gloms on to a slobster he knew in high school, played by Kevin Dillon, who now runs a gym, to teach him how to be less the “gentle man” and more the “real man.”

And NBC’s “Free Agents” — about a guy whose wife has just dumped him and can barely keep himself together while working for a PR firm — was the new season’s second cancellation.

Conversely, CBS’s “2 Broke Girls” — which follows a busted trust-fund princess and a jaded hipster (who bakes cupcake in her spare time? Really?) as they work side by side at a Brooklyn diner — is the biggest success stories of the season. It opened to an impressive audience of more than 19 million viewers during Premiere Week, and is the most watched new series of the new season.

Fox’s “New Girl,” about an “adorkable” chick who dumps her cheating boyfriend and moves in with three guy strangers — whom we dub Sporty, Whiny and Clueless — clocked more than 10 million viewers when it opened shortly thereafter. Most impressively, it outperformed the “Glee” lead-in on which it was expected to lean for ratings support. Once the viewers who DVR shows and watch days later are factored in, the two chick-coms are neck and neck among younger viewers who make TV networks happy — and rich.

The one exception to this trend appears to be that Tim Allen sitcom, which debuted last week. In “Last Man Standing,” Allen plays a guy stuck living with a wife and three daughters. As if that’s not bad enough, he works for the catalog of a sporting-goods retailer, traveling hither and yon to manly places, ginning up sales imagery for such manly products as boots and tents and knives and things. But when his boss decides young guys don’t read print catalogs, he winds up working on the company’s newfangled, girl-y Web site.

The unveiling of Allen’s show attracted more than 13 million viewers, self-starting at 8 p.m., which is the first hour of prime time.

When ABC programming chief Paul Lee unveiled his new prime-time schedule to advertisers in May, he acknowledged that his network’s audience is dominated by affluent women — and therefore its prime-time brand is programming about “empowered women.” But, he explained, he’s looking to bring more men to the table; that’s why, he said, two shows about men navigating a woman’s world seemed like a good fit.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with us saying Tuesday nights, we’re going to start opening out in a wider, broader, ‘heartland’ night of comedy,” Lee insisted. “And it helps us to put [together] two comedies, which are looking at the plight of man.”

By  |  06:27 PM ET, 10/19/2011

 
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