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The WB's 'Modern Men': Only One Thing on Its Mind

Max Greenfield, left, Josh Braaten and Eric Lively manage to wring some subtlety out of their one-dimensional, sex-obsessed characters.
Max Greenfield, left, Josh Braaten and Eric Lively manage to wring some subtlety out of their one-dimensional, sex-obsessed characters. (By Scott Humbert -- The Wb)

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By Chip Crews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 17, 2006

What's the only thing guys in their late twenties ever think about?

If your answer involved money, cars or liquor, then dude, you are so in the wrong solar system. The correct response is Sex, and anyone who doubts that should tune in to the premiere of WB's "Modern Men," tonight at 9:30 on Channel 50.

In the world of this show, sex is the only thing guys think about because it's the only thing there is. The three attractive leads are Tim (Josh Braaten), Kyle (Max Greenfield) and Doug (Eric Lively), and we know they have jobs because each job is mentioned a single time on tonight's show. (This is called careful writing.) And Tim, a bar and restaurant co-owner, must be thriving because his apartment is spacious, snazzy and expensive-looking.

And yet somehow so empty.

When we meet the three, they're in a bad way. Or, rather, in three different bad ways. Kyle, a handsome lady-killer, has just been caught sneaking away from a one-night stand. Doug, a divorced dim bulb, is engaged in humiliating efforts to win back his wife two years after their split. And Tim -- well, he just keeps getting dumped.

On the advice of his sister, Tim pays a visit to life coach Victoria Stangel (Jane Seymour), and soon enough the three friends are sharing a weekly appointment with her, trying to get their romantic acts together. ("So if you want to make this a group session, I can handle it," she tells them. "God knows you need me.") Stangel is clearly functioning as a psychologist; presumably she's a life coach in the script because a mental health professional might be less likely to offer a three-fer.

Stangel is withering and starchy, although much of her advice is pretty commonsensical. At the end of the first session, she admonishes them: "The next time you're with a woman, tell her the truth."

Kyle responds, "We want to get chicks, not be them." But in fact, each of them takes the advice, setting himself on a new but no less problematic romantic course.

A show like this -- the latest effort from the inescapable Jerry Bruckheimer -- doesn't ask a lot of its audience, or of itself. In that context, give the three leads credit: They display flashes of skill and even subtlety in depicting their one-dimensional characters. Through much of the show, Seymour -- a relative newcomer to comedy -- seems to be channeling Anne Robinson, the pinched, nasty-tempered host of "The Weakest Link," but the writers periodically remind us of her past by having her refer to her beauty and sex appeal.

There's nowhere to go with that in these circumstances. When, in a later episode, Kyle seems to be developing a thing for the life coach, it has the feel of a squeamish-making comedic dead end.

But all this series is looking for is a few snorts and sniggers from a young, hip audience. Whether that crowd will be home and tuned in to the WB on a Friday night, however, is a rather large question.

Modern Men (30 minutes) airs tonight at 9:30 on Channel 50.


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