Reviewing TBS’s Men at Work

TBS is one of my favorite channels, but it’s one of the last places I would think of to have a  quality first-run show. I’ll watch endless reruns of Friends or Seinfeld, but that’s what TBS is best at: reruns. Though, when I saw so many ads for Men at Work  during multiple two hour marathons of Friends, I wanted to give it a chance. I have been a fan of Breckin Meyer ever since I saw him star in Rat Race in 2001, so I was curious about how well he would do as a showrunner. I’ve also been a fan of Danny Masterson for a while. I knew this new role wouldn’t be as enjoyable as when he was Hyde in That 70s Show, but I still wanted him to succeed.

The style of the show wasn’t going to suit me, since I have an aversion to multi-camera shows with a laugh track. While there are a few notable  exceptions, the overwhelmingly deliberate delivery of punchline and prompting for the viewer to laugh turns me off. Also, the camera set up seems to compromise individual character focus. The premise of this show was respectable, but not very unique. Four men living, working and dating in New York. The series opened with two episodes on Thursday night, and while I chuckled a few times during both of them, I wasn’t impressed.

Masterson stars as Milo, a magazine journalist whose girlfriend recently dumped him. I  didn’t expect much out of his performance. It’s very difficult to get back into television after being on a hit show for 8 years. It’s been six years since That 70’s Show ended and I don’t know where Masterson has been. I’m sure he was happy to get some work, but this character did not seem to fit his skills. He was not sarcastic; he cared about people’s opinions. He didn’t seem emotionally strong and he was hardly street smart. Basically, I’m saying he wasn’t Hyde. That may be  irrational. Hyde impressed me because of his unconventional ability to be the voice of reason despite his rebellious attitude. It didn’t feel right for him to play a sensitive person down on his luck and trying to find his place in the world. Hyde doesn’t work as a character on a journey of self discovery. Masterson doesn’t work as a lead actor.

The pilot revolved around Milo trying to get over his breakup with the help of his friends, Neil, Tyler, and Gibbs. This episode seemed very slow-moving and wasn’t that funny. Milo’s friends’ solution is to help him find a woman at a bar and sleep with her as a way to numb his pain. Milo’s hesitant throughout the episode, but eventually does ask a woman at the bar to be his “rebound ass.” Milo’s lack of conviction and compromising of his integrity made it hard for me to like him. The hopeful reaction for a show’s audience in the mind of its creators is for the audience to root for the success of the protagonist. I couldn’t quite do that with Milo, and there wasn’t a polarizing reaction that made me want to root for his demise either. His character just seemed ineffective.

A B-plot revolved around Neil struggling to comply with his girlfriend’s request for dirty talk. His relationship has lasted two and a half years and he feels uncomfortable deviating from the normal, comfortable routine. He tries to do what she wants, but inevitably doesn’t get it right. His failure was a bit amusing, but of course, he’s not the protagonist we’re supposed to be rooting for. His failure is slightly more appropriate and probably produced the most laughs out of me. Regardless, it still wasn’t overly impressive.

The second episode was better than the pilot, but only slightly. It was about Milo trying to get his first investigative feature published. It was about drug use and Tyler kept telling Milo he needed to grab the reader. Once again, he struggled but I couldn’t quite root for him to win. Milo ended up in jail after shooting himself up with flour as an attempt to get inside the mind of a drug user. He was eventually published when font was reduced as a compromise, but unfortunately for Milo his contributor picture showed him on a prison toilet clenching in pain so he would get the “drugs” out of his system. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t as funny as Neil’s plot.

The promising aspects of the episode was Neil trying to impress his girlfriend’s father (also his boss) with  cost-cutting methods. This resulted in the coffee maker being taken away and Gibbs’ going through caffeine withdrawal. It also caused investigative features to be declared discontinued as a way of saving paper. Since the Neil’s B-plot shouldn’t dominate the A-plot of Milo and his “drugs”, the structure of this episode was flawed.

Overall, Men at Work is not a bad show, but it is certainly not a good one. TBS makes its attempts, but it’s not going to be known for elite original programming. Since it has so many solid syndication deals, TBS does not really have to have good original programming, but it would have been nice if it did. I was a little disappointed with Meyer’s writing skills, but I suppose he’s a better actor. It’s also unfortunate that Masterson is placed in a role which is overwhelmingly wrong for him, but perhaps he’ll grow into it. I don’t really need to stick around to find out.

Masterson will always be better as Hyde, so I can just keep watching reruns of That 70’s Show. I suppose I could see myself watching Men at Work again, but only after accidentally flipping to it and sticking around out of laziness to get a few cheap laughs. I’ll never really make an effort to watch it again,  but even if I do, it certainly won’t hold a place on my DVR.

Posted on May 25, 2012, in Cable, Comedy, TBS and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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