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Friday, September 30, 2011

How to Be a Gentleman teaches anything but

     The "Pilot" of CBS's How to Be a Gentleman finds Alan (David Hornsby, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) dealing with a new job description. Alan has been writing a column about being a gentleman, a disappearing art, but his boss, Jerry (Dave Foley, NewsRadio), informs Alan that, per the new owners, he needs to shift to something that appeals to a completely different demographic. A chance encounter with one of his former high school tormentors, Bert (Kevin Dillon, Entourage), gives Alan an idea on how to go about that. Reluctantly, he tries to transform himself. 

     How to Be a Gentleman might just win Worst New Series this season. There are so many reasons to nominate it for such a title, and really no reason not to. The writing isn't smart, the concept is done, and actors are poorly used, and the jokes aren't funny. From start to finish, it's impossible to find one positive thing to say about the "Pilot." So let's break down some of the negatives.

     Hornsby works great in small doses, such as the recurring role he plays on It's Always Sunny. He doesn't work at all as a leading man. His whiny voice and annoying personality, assumedly done for the part he is playing, leads the audience to sympathize with Bert quite quickly. Viewers will all want to punch Alan in the arm. I'm not saying Hornsby is a bad man or a terrible actor, but this role does him no favors.

     But Bert is not off the hook. What works for Johnny Drama when he's part of an Entourage doesn't necessarily work as one of two leading men. It's a shame, because Dillon is essentially playing the same role. Not with the lifestyle or career choice, of course, but in terms of how he acts, talks, and thinks. Did Drama get a spin-off, and then at the last minute, the creators decided to rename his character and make it something new? It seems so.

     The supporting characters are no better. Foley is intolerable as a pushover, willing to do anything to keep his job. This wimpiness keeps him from being likable, much the same way it does for Alan and Alan's brother-in-law, Mike (Rhys Darby, The Flight of the Conchords). Mike's mother is played by Nancy Lenehan (The New Adventures of Old Christine, Worst Week), recycling the same forgettable character she always plays. There's nothing to hate about her, but that could be because her character lacks any discernable substance. Mary Lynn Rajskub is wasting the (deserved) adoration she built with 24 on another throwaway part, Alan's possibly cheating, overbearing sister. Some of these actors could do so much better.

     If the fates are kind, How to Be a Gentleman will be off the air by next week. But fates aren't always kind, so who knows? If you are interested in checking it out, How to Be a Gentleman airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS.

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